OM in the News: The Bellhop Robot
“Think of it as the Terminator’s human-friendly sibling,” writes The New York Times (Aug.12, 2014). In the Aloft hotel lobby in Cupertino CA, a desk clerk places a razor in the bin of a 3-foot-high robot and taps in a room number on a display. The robot, “Botlr,” chirps an R2-D2-style acknowledgment and rolls off to an elevator and its final destination. On the move, it can reach speeds of up to 4 miles per hour, adequate for Botlr to hustle razors, toothbrushes, smartphone chargers, snacks and the morning paper to any of the hotel’s 150 rooms in 2-3 minutes.
When the robot reaches the guest’s door, the system calls the room, alerting the guest to the delivery. The robot, which has a camera and other sensors, can recognize that the room door has been opened and then lift the lid on the storage bin that holds the delivery. A flat panel display at the top of the robot is used for the guest to enter a “review” rather than giving a tip. In return for a positive review, the robot will do a small dance before it departs.
Perhaps the most impressive capability of the new robot is its ability to independently make its way to upper floors. When it reaches the elevator, it wirelessly sends a command for the door to open and then maneuvers into the elevator car, taking care to stay out of the way of any human passengers. When it returns to the lobby, Botlr can plug itself into a recharging station while it awaits its next errand. As a hotel application, the robot can free up the hotel desk clerk from having to run up to the room, giving the staff more time with the guests.
Classroom discussion questions:
1. How else can service robots be used in hotels?
2. What are the advantages and disadvantages of Botlr, from an OM perspective?