In this hotel, robots deliver towels, mix cocktails
HANGZHOU: Gliding silently through Alibaba Group Holding's futuristic FlyZoo hotel, black disc-shaped robots about a metre in height deliver food and drop off fresh towels.
The robots are part of a suite of high-tech tools that Alibaba says drastically cuts the hotel's cost of human labour and eliminates the need for guests to interact with other people.
Formally opened last month, the 290-room FlyZoo is an incubator for technology Alibaba wants to sell to the hotel industry.
"It's all about the efficiency of the service and the consistency of service because the robots are not disturbed by human moods," said Mr Andy Wang, CEO of Alibaba Future Hotel Management, which oversees the project.
Guests check in at podiums that scan their faces as well as passports or other ID. Visitors can scan their faces using smartphones to check in ahead of time. Lifts scan guests' faces again to verify which floor they can access and room doors are opened with another face scan.
In the rooms, Alibaba's voice command technology is used to change temperature, draw curtains, adjust lighting and order room service.
At the hotel's restaurant, capsule-shaped robots deliver food ordered via the FlyZoo app, while at the bar, a large robotic arm mixes more than 20 different types of cocktails.
Facial recognition cameras add additional charges to the room automatically. To check out, guests press a button on the app, after which the room locks and they are automatically charged through Alibaba's online wallet.
Once done, guests' facial scan data is erased from Alibaba's systems, said Mr Wang. Room fees start from 1,390 yuan (S$278) a night.
The hotel employs humans, though Alibaba declined to specify how many. This includes chefs and cleaners as well as reception staff. - REUTERS