Hotel group to deploy more robots
One robot can do the work of two to three people
If you see a waist-high metal cylinder zipping along a hotel corridor and riding the lift, do not be afraid.
It is probably Aura, which will be at the service of guests at five hotels here in the next 12 months.
Aura, which stands for Automated Room-Service Associate, is a robot which is able to find its way around the hotel to deliver room amenities such as linens and water bottles to guests.
The Millennium Hotels and Resorts group has piloted Aura at one of its hotels and will roll out the robots to four others in the next 12 months, in the biggest push so far to deploy robots among hotels here.
Park Avenue Rochester Hotel deployed two robot housemaids last year. The latest initiative will involve at least five robots.
The Millennium group declined to say how much each robot costs.
The group's 293-room M Social Singapore piloted its first Aura eight months ago.
Following its success, the hotel group will be rolling out the robots in four other hotels - Grand Copthorne Waterfront, Studio M Hotel Singapore, M Hotel Singapore and Orchard Hotel Singapore.
At M Social, one robot can do the work of two to three people and takes six to eight minutes to make a room delivery.
While the robot moves around without human help, it will stop when its sensors detect movement within a 5m radius so it does not endanger guests, said the hotel's general manager Pjey Mayandi.
He added that women have given feedback that they feel a bit safer opening the door to a robot than a man.
When a guest calls the front desk with a request, the guest relations manager or duty manager will programme Aura to make the delivery.
Once it reaches the guest room, it will "call" the guest on the phone.
The robot's sensors will detect when the door is opened and it will lift its hatch to reveal a compartment containing the item.
"Guests love it. There is a wow factor," said Mr Mayandi.
M Social is also piloting an automated egg station at its restaurant. A robotic arm will serve up eggs in three ways - scrambled, omelette or sunny side-up.
The robotics project at M Social was spearheaded by Republic Polytechnic's (RP) Hospitality Solution Centre.
The school yesterday signed agreements with 14 industry partners from across the hotel, hospitality, events, wellness and food and beverage sectors to test-bed technologies.
Mr Ng Yu Lik, a principal lecturer at RP's School of Hospitality, noted it is necessary for hotels here to turn to robotics, as "the manpower challenges here are quite acute".
Robotics can allow existing staff to "focus more on the guest and less on the task".
"If a guest asks for an item to be delivered, they want it delivered and don't care if there's a human being or not," he added.