Robotel: Japan hotel staffed by robot dinosaurs

A robot dinosaur wearing a bellboy hats welcomes guests from the front desk at the Henn-na Hotel in Urayasu, suburban Tokyo on August 31, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 03 September 2018
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Robotel: Japan hotel staffed by robot dinosaurs

URAYASU, Japan: The reception at the Henn na Hotel east of Tokyo is eerily quiet until customers approach the robot dinosaurs manning the front desk. Their sensors detect the motion and they bellow “Welcome.”
It might be about the weirdest check-in experience possible, but that’s exactly the point at the Henn na (whose name means ‘weird’) chain, which bills itself as offering the world’s first hotels staffed by robots.
The front desk staff are a pair of giant dinosaurs that look like cast members of the Jurassic Park movies, except for the tiny bellboy hats perched on their heads.
The robo-dinos process check-ins through a tablet system that also allows customers to choose which language — Japanese, English, Chinese or Korean — they want to use to communicate with the multilingual robots.
The effect is bizarre, with the large dinosaurs gesticulating with their long arms and issuing tinny set phrases. Yukio Nagai, manager at the Henn na Hotel Maihama Tokyo Bay, admits some customers find it slightly unnerving.
“We haven’t quite figured out when exactly the guests want to be served by people, and when it’s okay to be served by robots,” he told AFP.
But for other guests the novelty is the charm: each room is staffed with mini-robots that look a bit like spherical Star Wars droid BB-8, and help guests with everything from changing channels to playing music.
Even the fish swimming in the lobby run on batteries, with electric lights in their articulated bodies flickering on and off as they work their way around giant tanks.
“The dinosaurs looked intriguing, and I thought my son would love it,” said Chigusa Hosoi, who was at the hotel with her three-year-old.
“My son is really happy. There’s an egg-shaped robot inside the room. He was playing with it a lot.”
The first Henn na Hotel opened in Nagasaki in 2015, and was certified the following year by Guinness World Records as the world’s first hotel with robots on its staff.
The travel agency group that operates the chain now runs eight hotels across the country, all with robots on the staff, some of them dinosaurs, but others taking a more humanoid shape.
Some humans are also on call to intervene in case of glitches, which customer reviews online suggest are a not infrequent problem at check-in.
But Nagai said relying on robots for everything from front desk duty to cleaning had proved an efficient choice in a country with a shrinking labor market.
“It’s becoming difficult to secure enough labor at hotels. To solve that problem, we have robots serving guests.”


OPEC chief: Group must stay together as US sanctions Iran

Updated 25 min 36 sec ago
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OPEC chief: Group must stay together as US sanctions Iran

  • Production cut agreement now a "permanent feature"
  • Brent already near $80 per barrel

FUJAIRAH: OPEC must stick together for the good of the global economy as founding member Iran faces renewed US sanctions, the head of the group said Tuesday — though he did not address how an already-tight market will make up for the loss of Iranian supply.
Mohammed Sanusi Barkindo also said an agreement between OPEC and non-members that cut production and helped bring prices back up from lows of $30 a barrel in January 2016 was now “a permanent feature.”
Cementing that arrangement would be one of the topics of discussion as OPEC meets this Sunday in Algeria, he added.
Still, OPEC will face rising anger from Iran, which feels increasingly under pressure after President Donald Trump pulled out of the landmark nuclear deal between Iran and world powers in May.
Crushing US oil sanctions on Iran will resume in early November and already, American allies in Asia are cutting back on their purchases of Iranian crude.
The US moves have gotten furious reactions from Iran, especially amid talk of American officials asking Russia and Saudi Arabia to make up the difference.
“Mr. Trump’s attempt to prevent Iran from appearing on the global crude oil markets has allowed Russia and Saudi Arabia, which would not favor low prices, to pursue hostage-taking policies in the market,” Iranian OPEC governor Hossein Kazempour Ardebili said on Saturday.
Barkindo said: “Iran is not only a founding member of OPEC, it’s a very important member of this organization. We have no choice but continue to work with all parties.”
Benchmark Brent crude already is nearing $80 a barrel and analysts believe it may go even higher as production remains low. A loss of Iranian supply likely will further drive up prices.
Trump, facing midterm elections in the US, already has called for more oil production from Saudi Arabia and OPEC to bring down prices with limited effect. A gallon of regular gasoline costs on average $2.85 in the US, up from $2.62 a year ago, according to AAA.
Barkindo praised the agreement between OPEC and non-members that cut production and said the cartel would work to make it permanent.
“The declaration of cooperation has come to stay,” he said.