When you stay in this fancy New York City hotel you don’t have to worry about tipping the bellboy – that’s because he’s a robot. Yotel, opening in June in Manhattan, features a robotic luggage storage system, touchscreen check in, super strong WiFi, moving beds, and a host of other high tech amenities. It’s the hotel of the future…or as close as we’ve gotten so far. Take a 3D tour of Yotel in the video below, followed by a live-action demonstration of its luggage handling robot – the Yobot. As our culture becomes increasingly fascinated with the future and advanced technology, will hotels like this transition from niche boutiques to trend setting icons?
While the following scenes on the 3D tour are mostly virtual, I can assure you the hotel itself is very real. Located at 570 10th avenue, just west of the Port Authority Terminal and Times Square, Yotel will be open the first week in June and is currently taking reservations. There will be 669 rooms in total, all with high speed WiFi, flat screen TVs and other modern conveniences. Touchscreens allow for self check in, and opening rooms is achieved via an RFID tag – no need for swiping a card or turning a key. The sleek look of the rooms and common spaces (bar, lounge, business room, etc) continue the futuristic theme.
Yobot is the robotic equivalent of a bellboy, storing luggage for guests as they come in and out of the hotel. It’s sort of an automated security deposit box for your clothes. I’m not sure how many guests would take advantage of this service, but it’s a phenomenal center piece to the hotel and certainly gives the impression that you’re staying at a futuristic facility.
The gleaming furnishings and sleek automated systems of Yotel are surprisingly cheap – the introductory rate is just $150 a night! For those unfamiliar with Manhattan lodging prices, $150/night is roughly what I’d expect to spend on a cardboard box in the Lincoln Tunnel. No, not really, but other hotels on 10th avenue can run between $300-$450, so you’re definitely getting a deal here. Part of that I’m sure is artificially lowered prices to garner interest, but I wonder if the automated check in and luggage storage don’t also save the hotel enough money that they can pass savings on to guests. Certainly the efficiently laid out rooms seem to be designed to minimize costs while placing as many people in the hotel as comfortably as possible. (Some beds can fold up into futons with the touch of a button, for instance – giving you the feel of a suite for the size of a regular room). Perhaps the hotel of the future isn’t just about high tech amenities, maybe it’s about providing the illusion of luxury living as affordably as possible.
While the new location in Manhattan is the first Yotel in the US, it’s the fourth hotel in the chain. Yotel also rents rest spaces in Lond Heathrow airport. While these small rooms (reserved for 4 to 24 hours) feature much of the same design style and amenities as the Manhattan site, they don’t have the same futuristic feel – as you can see in the video below:
So, while Yotel’s NYC branch is fascinatingly advanced looking, especially with the Yobot front and center, I think the chain simply represents another niche hotel scheme – like those with heart shaped hot tubs or wall-sized aquariums in rooms. Some of the technologies used at Yotel, however, are probably going to take off in hotels all over the world. Touchscreen self check in is now the standard at many airports, saving companies time and money. I’ve seen similar stations at hotels in the US and I can only assume that their use will increase in the years ahead. High speed WiFi is certainly going to be a staple, if it isn’t already, likewise for RFID keys for rooms. (Actually, we’ve already seen a hotel that uses near field communications on your phone to unlock doors, so maybe that technology will take off instead.) And Yobot? I really like the novelty of a robot bellhop…but we may be looking at a really cool centerpiece, not the cusp of a new trend.
I suspect we’ll see hotels test more futuristic amenities in the near term. Perhaps robotic tour guides like the ones at the Santander HQ in Spain, or touchscreen computer walls in every room, or automated room service using robotic trays that can guide themselves. These technologies are already available, it’s simply a matter of finding which ones customers want and are willing to pay for. Personally, when it comes to hotels in New York, I’d just settle for one without bedbugs. Hmmm, I wonder if we could automate pest removal…maybe give Yobot a giant flyswatter?