When you stay at the futuristic hotels of the 21st century, you’re not just away from home, you’re in an alternate reality that includes check-in kiosks, holographs, and infrared sensors that can control literally everything. How far away are we from a world where hotels are totally digital, and robots run reception and tend bar? Well, the revolution has already begun.
Henn-na Hotel (Japan)
Count on Japan to deliver the world's first robot hotel. The fembot staff may look entirely creepy, but they are very efficient: checking- in guests, carrying luggage to rooms and even offering up a few giggles. Henn-na is powered by solar panels, banishing traditional room keys in favor of facial recognition technology.
Virgin Hotel (Chicago)
Sir Richard Branson’s debut in the hotel industry has all kinds of gadgetry frills, especially with its innovative mobile app “Lucy.” She handles reservations, check-in, check-out, room service and room temperature, and even acts as a TV remote. But what’ll keep techies and business travelers coming back to the Virgin Hotel is the über-strong Wi-Fi and Tesla car service.
Hotel 1000 (Seattle)
At Hotel 1000, do-not-disturb signs have gone the way of the dodo. Instead, every room is equipped with an electronic doorbell that detects body heat, sensing if anybody’s inside. The hotel also boasts a fully converged IP infrastructure that allows guests to pick their own room temperature, artwork and music. You may be temped to never leave the room, if it weren't for the on-site virtual golf featuring a choice of 50 courses and infrared sensors that gauge performance.
YOTEL (New York)
YOTEL’s about as futuristic as a hotel in 2015 can get. There’s automated check-in and the rooms have audio-streaming walls, super fast Wi-Fi and motorized beds that fold for extra floor space. The coolest feature is Yotel’s concierge “Yobot”, a 15-foot robotic arm that sorts bags and stows valuables into safety deposit boxes.
Aloft Cupertino (California)
In Silicon Valley, it’s to be expected that hotels will have to be on the cutting edge, but Aloft Cupertino raises the bar as the world’s first hotel to employ a “Botlr” or robotic butler. Wearing a shrink-wrapped uniform made out of vinyl, A.L.O. — as it's called — helps the front desk by delivering amenities to guest rooms. Plus, he accepts tweets as tips.
Delta Toronto (Canada)
Delta's flagship hotel in Toronto has been working with Samsung to design every room to be “smart”. That means guests can connect their devices wirelessly or into a “smart desk” to access menus, movies, live TV and their own personal content, as well. Stephen Perkins, Samsung Canada’s VP of display business, explained it best to the Toronto Sun: "It will allow you through your phone or tablet to control the frames, the temperature, the TV ... If there's a Blue Jays game on tonight, do you need help getting tickets for that?"
Ritz Carlton (Various locations)
From Boston to Moscow, quite a few of the Ritz Carlton’s properties offer a special employee trademarked as the “Technology Butler.” Spill water on your laptop? Rather than wasting the day tracking down a Radio Shack, just make a quick call to the front desk and you’ve got automatic help. They'll work out any problems, either hardware or software — but as the technology butler at Ritz-Carlton Kuala Lumpur told Travel + Leisure, the answer usually comes down to, “You have to push the ON button, sir.”
The Peninsula Tokyo (Japan)
Best way to get rid of the kids on vacation? Send them on a virtual reality adventure, of course! In the spirit of Japan's love for technology and anime, the Peninsula Tokyo has developed a Pokémon scavenger hunt for its young guests. Equipped with a Poké Ball and Pikachu hat, kids set off on an interactive mystery around the hotel powered by augmented reality. Meanwhile, Mom and Dad can enjoy unlimited Internet radio, a mood lighting pad and wireless phones built-in with Skype (in peace and quiet).
NH Hotel (Various locations)
NH Hotel Group's got other-worldly service for business travelers, with its 3D holographic conferencing and telepresence at select hotels. Projected people and objects appear at meetings in 3D, like at the recent press conference for the film Chappie held at the NH Hotel Madrid. Hugh Jackman and director Neill Blomkamp were both beamed in from a studio in Berlin.