An LA hotel has begun using robot butlers to deliver items to guests rooms — but are robot butlers more effort than they are worth?
WIRED reports that LAX’s Residence Inn has begun utilizing robot butler’s known as Relay robots produced by a company called Savioke to deliver items to guests rooms, including room service food. However, these robots which are designed to make life easier for humans can often cause more issues than simply employing a human hotel porter. WIRED notes that if a tray is set outside a guests door, the Relay robot can’t move it, similarly if a cart is blocking the robot’s way in the hallway, it’s unable to get past it. There is a solution to this that Relay has prepared for — remote control by humans.
When a Relay robot finds itself trapped or blocked, it sends a distress signal to a Savioke call center where a human agent will take control of the robot and maneuver the robot out of harm’s way. But this means that the efficiency of having a robot is in many ways negated by having to hire a human to perform a new type of job, that of a robot babysitter. Many companies that sell automated robots have begun opening call centers to deal with situations in which their automated machines need a human guiding hand for help.
David Poole, the CEO and co-founder of Symphony Ventures, which consults various companies on automation, said in a statement, “It’s something that’s just starting to emerge, and it’s not just robots. I think there is going to be a huge industry, probably mostly offshore, in the monitoring of devices in general, whether they’re health devices that individuals wear or monitoring pacemakers or whatever it might be.” Self-driving car companies may also take advantage of this idea. Nissan has already stated that due to the complexity of developing self-driving cars, they want humans to have some control over vehicles on the street.
Many manufacturers hope that these robot babysitter jobs are only temporary measures and that their devices will soon become smart enough to operate entirely independently. Tessa Lau, CTO of Savioke, stated “I can completely see that eventually we’ll reach a point where we don’t need the humans in the loop,” she continued to say “We’re experimenting with this new technology that’s sort of the first of its kind. We’re still getting the kinks out, we’re still making Relay more reliable, more autonomous.”