Japan’s hotels are using robots to welcome coronavirus positive guests and clean the buildings.
Hotels in Japan are allowing those with the coronavirus who are not sick enough to recover in a hospital to check in with a robot and use the accommodations until they’re feeling better. Guests are greeted by the bot when they arrive, are asked to enter their details, and are then assigned a room. Several of the hotels recently opened in Tokyo and are meant to relieve the burden placed on Japan’s medical personnel.
“In an effort to reduce the burden on the medical system, Japan has secured more than 10,000 hotel rooms around the nation to put up patients with lighter symptoms,” according to the Health Ministry.
One robot named “Pepper,” who wears a mask to encourage human guests to do the same, has been placed at the entrance of a hotel waiting to welcome new arrivals. He is equipped to verbally greet guests, saying, “Please, wear a mask inside. I hope you recover as quickly as possible.” Other messages Pepper has been programmed to greet visitors with include, “I pray the spread of the disease is contained as soon as possible. Let’s join our hearts and get through this together.”
Pepper is not the only robot at work in the hotel. There is also a cleaning robot equipped with Artificial Intelligence (AI) that has been tasked with sanitizing several areas of the hotel, including riskier “red zone” spots.
Robots have been utilized as neutral messengers elsewhere as of late. The Philadelphia-based Promobot recently deployed in Times Square, New York. The robot, which has also been seen in New York City’s Bryant Park, was designed to quiz people to see if they have symptoms of the coronavirus. However, since interaction required pressing buttons on a tablet and this could heighten the spread of COVID-19, the bot has since been removed.
South Korea has used robots measure temperatures and distribute hand sanitizer during the pandemic. And, Walmart is also reportedly using bots to scrub its floors in addition to having already employed extra robotic hands in its warehouses, a trend Amazon is also following. McDonald’s has been testing robots as cooks and servers which will stay in place to reduce workload after COVID passes.
Tech experts have hypothesized the virus will speed up the inclusion of robots in everyday tasks, replacing humans in several capacities during a time with already limited job security. Of course, robots are unable to do everything humans can, but current conditions are certainly accelerating the rate in which they are being introduced into the workplace.
“People usually say they want a human element to their interactions, but COVID-19 has changed that,” says Martin Ford, a futurist who has written about all the ways robots will be used. He added, “COVID-19 is going to change consumer preference and really open up new opportunities for automation.”
Blake Morgan, author of The Customer of the Future, said, “Customers now care more about their safety and the safety and health of workers. Moves towards automation can keep them all healthier and customers will reward companies that do this.”