A concierge at Hilton McLean Tysons Corner in Virginia is attracting plenty of attention for providing excellent service to guests needing directions and other information about the hotel and surrounding area.
The tiny attendant listens carefully to guests’ requests, and establishes a personal connection with them while expressing a wide array of emotions, including delight and understanding.
This may seem pretty ordinary behavior for concierges, but that’s what makes this attendant, Connie, so extraordinary. For, Connie is a robot that can adeptly handle many concierge responsibilities—with a human touch.
Standing 2 1/2 feet tall, Connie has been serving the Virginia property, near Hilton’s headquarters, for the past month. Hilton teamed up with tech giant IBM to create the robot, named after Conrad Hilton, the founder of Hilton Worldwide.
Connie was made by using domain knowledge from Watson, which is IBM’s flagship AI program, and WayBlazer. Besides providing information, the robot concierge can move its arms and legs (and literally point guests in the right direction), and its eyes light up in different colors to express a variety of human emotions.
Hilton emphasizes that Connie wasn’t created to reduce human staffing. Rather, it is viewed as an assistant that can answer routine questions and thereby free up staff to handle other responsibilities. And Hilton recognizes the irreplaceable value of human interaction.
Still, Connie can be particularly useful during busy times, including meetings and events. For now, it mainly provides directions and other basic information, but other functions can be added.
“In meetings, it can do some very fast research and fact-checking, so if a question comes up like ‘What’s the GDP in China for the last five years?,’ without even asking Connie, it can find the information and bring it back to you,” said Jim Holthouser, executive vice president of global brands for Hilton Worldwide, in an interview with Skift.
Hilton hasn’t set an end date for the robot concierge pilot program, and hasn’t decided if Connie will be added to other properties.
Although Connie is unique in many ways, other hotels have experimented with robot technology. Starwood Hotels and Resorts’ Botlr can deliver room service, and its futuristic Yotel Hotel in New York City has a luggage-toting robot. Henn-na Hotel in Nagasaki, Japan, is mainly manned by robots, which speak both Japanese and English.