Alibaba unveils 'Space Egg' robot that's set to work in Chinese hotels

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27 September 2018 23:56

Alibaba will soon deploy robot bellhops to deliver room service at hotels. 

The Chinese tech giant's A.I. Labs has unveiled a robot, dubbed 'Space Egg,' which uses artificial intelligence to tend to hotel guests needs. 

It can deliver food or laundry and even recognize voice commands thanks to Alibaba's voice assistant, Tmall Genie. 

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Space Egg stands at just 3.3ft and glides along at a pace of just two miles per hour. 

Once a guest places an order using the Tmall Genie in their hotel room, the aluminum robot picks up the item from an employee or a robotic dispenser and delivers it to the guest. 

The robots use a combination of lasers and radar sensors to navigate the hotel autonomously, avoiding collisions or obstacles thanks to a pre-loaded map. 

It emits directional lighting to show other guests where it's headed next. 

What's more, it's equipped with WiFi that allows it to call an elevator and go to the appropriate floor by itself. 

Once it arrives, the Space Egg notifies the guest that it's outside their room using the Tmall Genie device, then uses facial recognition technology to make sure it's the correct guest.  

Alibaba will soon deploy robot bellhops to deliver room service at hotels. The robot, dubbed 'Space Egg,' uses artificial intelligence to tend to hotel guests needs

It can deliver food or laundry and recognize voice commands using Alibaba's voice assistant, Tmall Genie. The Space Egg can also board an elevator and select a floor autonomously

The Space Egg also recognizes and understands commands made via an onboard touchscreen or if the guest uses hand gestures. 

'We are excited by this tremendous development that is helping us bridge the gap between guest needs and the response time that they expect,' Chen Lijuan, general manager of Alibaba A.I. Labs, said in a statement. 

'...The robot will be the ultimate assistant for hotel guests who want everything quickly and conveniently at their fingertips.'

For now, the robot is being tested at select hotels. Once tests are complete, A.I. Labs will determine if it's suitable to be used in hospitals, restaurants and offices.  

Once a guest places an order using the Tmall Genie in their hotel room, the aluminum robot picks up the item from an employee or a robotic dispenser and delivers it to the guest

Users talk to the Tmall Genie in their hotel room, which is one of Alibaba's voice-activated smart speakers. Guests use Genie to make room service orders and receive notifications too 

Alibaba noted that the robot will begin testing next month. 

The firm isn't the first to test out the idea of bringing robots to hotels. 

A Miami hotel, called Yotelpad, uses robots to greet guests, deliver room service and towels, as well as give directions. 

The nearly four-foot-tall purple robots get around on wheels and feature a cute, smiling face on a screen that greets guests as they arrive.

However, the robo-bellhops aren't likely to replace human employees anytime soon.

They only move up to three miles per hour and aren't capable of carrying bags just yet.  

THE MIAMI HOTEL THAT EMPLOYS ROBOT BUTLERS  

Yotelpad, a 30-story building that's part hotel, part condominium, is employing three robot butlers for guests and residents. 

The nearly four-foot-tall purple robots get around on wheels and feature a cute, smiling face on a screen that greets guests as they arrive. 

The machines can deliver room service, bring extra towels, give directions, chat with guests and play music. 

They can even use the elevator, according to the Miami Herald

It's programmed to say a variety of different greetings and responses. A touchscreen on the device is enabled to show several facial expressions. 

However, the robo-bellhops aren't likely to replace human employees anytime soon. 

They only move up to three miles per hour and aren't capable of carrying bags just yet. 

Singapore-based robotics firm Techmetics created the machines, which feature a range of sensors and cameras to get to and from each room. 

The robots are also fully automatic, meaning they require no human control or intervention.  

In addition to hospitality robots, Techmetics has also supplied machines to casinos, hospitals and factories.

The robo-bellhops don't currently have a name, but Yotelpad is hosting a social media campaign to find one.  

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