Robot receptionist never clocks off and always has a smile


Imagine a future where you don’t need to train your receptionists and they can comfortably work 24-hour shifts without complaint or fatigue.

Well, it might not be too far away thanks to advances in virtual reality that mean the friendly face of lifelike ‘humanoids’ could be the one to meet and greet hotel guests.

Over the past week at the ITB hospitality show in Berlin, tech giant Toshiba has been showing off ‘ChihiraKanae’, a 1.65cm tall android dressed as a front-of-house staff member and boasting 47 pneumatically-controlled actuators.

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Hitoshi Tokuda from Toshiba’s R&D division fielded questions from the audience during two live demonstrations of the robot, which speaks English, Japanese and Chinese.

It can use its arms and hands to make gestures, changes its facial expression and recognise faces. According to the company, it can even show ‘emotions’.

As organisers of the exhibition point out, the humanoid’s “steel heart” makes it ideal for carrying out repetitive duties day and night with the same friendly demeanour, in a confined space and without extensive training. The robot is programmed to deliver up to 300 different responses.

Toshiba’s Tokuda said one of the biggest advances was in ChihiraKanae’s facial features, which make an important “psychological difference”.

But he admitted the biggest challenge facing artificial intelligence is the ability create robots that can comprehend and communicate freely, so Boutique Hotelier thinks the jobs of hotel reception staff around the UK are safe for a little while yet.


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