The Relay hotel delivery robot will soon spot Wi-Fi dead zones and mingle with guests

Directly adjacent to the Las Vegas Convention Center is a Renaissance hotel with a pair of special staff members: robots. Savioke’s Relay robots have been on the job for three months, helping out the concierge by delivering items to guests during peak hours. The two robots, named “Elvis” and “Priscilla” by the hotel, pick up orders from the front desk, call and ride the elevators without help, and call the guest’s room phone when they’ve arrived. They navigate autonomously, based on a pre-generated map, so there’s no problem if they lose Wi-Fi or LTE signal. I got to watch a delivery in action (to a demo room), and it was a seamless experience.

 

After three years of putting robots in hotels, Savioke is well beyond the pilot stage, and ready to expand Relay’s functionality beyond delivery tasks. This year, the robots will gain the ability to patrol a hotel and look for zones with poor Wi-Fi quality and report it directly to IT, which will help with one of the most frequent complaints from guests. Savioke is also working on “tray and debris detection / reporting.” Relay will be able to detect a food tray or trash, and alert staff to where they are — a job usually left to security guards in a typical hotel at night. Finally, Savioke is going to capitalize on Relay’s popularity with guests to add a “mingle” function, where Relay can hang out with guests in the lobby and tell jokes or deliver treats.

There are about 70 Relay bots in hotels around the world right now, which Savioke distributes through a “robot as a service” business model. Savioke will start beta testing these functions later this month, with a full rollout in the first half of this year. Hotels will be able to choose which of these new Relay features they want to deploy, and how it will integrate with their system. I was told by Karl Kruger, the general manager of the Renaissance, that he’d be up for any new features Savioke wants to add.

As for how staff and guests feel, I obviously got a one-sided story from Savioke and hotel management, but it sounds overwhelmingly positive. I’m told staff members appreciate the robot because it helps alleviate pressure during peak hours. They like the bots enough that they post photos with them on their Instagrams. Guests haven’t had any problems with their deliveries, and they get what they need much faster than usual: the average Relay delivery takes 3.5 minutes from front desk to guest room.

My favorite anecdote was a little girl who received a toothbrush from Relay early in her family’s stay at the hotel. When they were about to check out, she had her mom bring her down to the lobby so she could give the robot a hug.

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