If there’s one place on Earth you can already get a glimpse of our robot-assisted future, it’s Japan.
Routinely at the forefront of robotics research, the country has brought us some of the weirdest automatons, most lifelike androids, and cutest helper-bots.
Nowhere is this more evident than at Nagasaki’s Henn-na Hotel, a hotel run by robots that opened this year. Walk into reception and a mechanised dinosaur will guide you through check-in; go to your room and a luggage bot will wheel your suitcase along beside you; get ready for bed and your own robot companion will turn out the lights.
Henn-na Hotel CEO Hideo Sawada sells his offering as part of a utopian vision where robots take over manual labour so humans can turn their attention to more creative pursuits. Replacing staff with robots might reduce labour costs, but their appeal to visitors needs to last beyond novelty value.
Motherboard host Ben Ferguson checks into the robot hotel in the first episode of our new travel series Voyager, made possible by travel tool KAYAK. The robot workers he meets are courteous and communicative, but can they emulate the human warmth of their flesh-and-blood counterparts? Could robots really be our future holiday companions, or do man and machine ultimately get lost in translation?