Henn na Hotel’s dino receptionists have grabbed people’s attention since the launch of its Tokyo branch in May.
Dinosaur robots acting as receptionist greet a hotel employee for the newly-opening Henn na Hotel Maihama Tokyo Bay in Urayasu – REUTERS pic.twitter.com/55S9vlRCFo
— GoldenCouple (@TRH_WandC) March 16, 2017
— TechEBlog (@techeblog) September 26, 2018
VIDEO: The reception at the Henn na Hotel east of Tokyo is eerily quiet until customers approach the robot dinosaurs manning the front desk. The Henn na (whose name means ‘weird’) chain bills itself as offering the world’s first hotels staffed by robots pic.twitter.com/nyFdDjyGzB
— AFP news agency (@AFP) August 31, 2018
But the viral Japanese hotel seems to have underwhelmed guests, if TripAdvisor reviews are anything to go by.
The hotel’s first branch in Nagasaki is certified in the Guinness Book of World Records as the first hotel with robot staff. “The world’s most advanced robot will support your comfortable hotel stay,” its website promises.
Hideo Sawada, who runs the hotel, said that the robots are not gimmicks, but “a serious effort to use technology and achieve efficiency” in Japan’s shrinking labour market, the Guardian reported.
But the reality seems underwhelming. We looked at some pictures and reviews on TripAdvisor for a realistic look:
Nagasaki branch: Here’s the entrance to the hotel. The cheapest one-night stay costs 15,400 yen (US$136)
Tokyo Branch: A one -night stay costs 37,00 yen (US$326)
Here’s the famous front desk staffed by robots — a humanoid female and a dinosaur — at the Nagasaki branch. One TripAdvisor user even snapped them donning festive Christmas gear.
The Tokyo branch gets two dinosaurs (based on media photos), and two female robots.
Unfortunately, the most anticipated part of the visit also tended to let visitors down the most. The robot’s don’t do actual check-ins— only prompt guests to digitally check-in on tablets by keying in their own details.
Many TripAdvisor reviewers said that the check-in experience was ruined by multiple technical issues, including problems scanning non-Japanese passports. In the end, human staff often intervene to complete the check-in for guests. Some people complained that staff checked in for them on the tablets without asking, robbing them of the chance to interact with the robots.
After checking in, a robot brings guests and luggage up to their rooms, which open with a card key or facial recognition.
Guests say the robots are inactive before the 3pm check-in time. Guests’ faces are registered at check-in to activate the facial recognition for their rooms. This feature only worked for some people, while others said they ended up using their regular access card.
Inside the room, there’s a robot that helps change the temperature and lights. It can also set alarms and provide weather info.
Here’s the Nagasaki room:
Here’s the Tokyo room:
The Nagasaki branch’s robot is called Tuly, and looks like a tulip. The Tokyo branch’s robot looks like an egg.
TripAdvisor reviews are mixed on the in-room robots. Parents with children said the robot was entertaining, but other guests said the robot doesn’t respond well to voice commands, and keeps activating when they’re chatting among themselves (and creepily, sometimes late at night). Apparently, the robot can also do more things if you speak to it in Japanese.
Rooms have tablets that can connect to the front desk and internet, but one guest pointed out that the tablets are chained to the nightstand. Housekeeping was another sore point for some, as staff only empty trash and change the towels.
Guests are only served breakfast at Henn na Hotel, but there are vending machines for snacks and people can order at the bar off a tablet.
Meals are cooked and served by human chefs, and rooms and beds are made by staff. Roomba-style robots vacuum the hallway and cut grass on the lawn.
When it’s time to head out for sightseeing, guests in Nagasaki can leave their belongings in a locker room staffed by a robot.
The locker room robot is a robotic arm usually used in manufacturing. It lifts out boxes from the wall for guests put their belongings in, then stacks them up till the guest returns.
Guests can also have a poke around the other robots in use and on display the lobby.
— Iis Tussyadiah (@tussyadiah) September 18, 2018
Unfortunately, one TripAdvisor review by a robot fanatic reported that most of the robots are for show, and turned off. In Tokyo, there are supposed to be electric fish swimming in an aquarium and a robot dustbin, but both were turned off when one guest visited.