Many people who grew up with Tomorrow’s World and The Jetsons may have been disappointed by the lack of robot butlers and virtual reality gadgets cropping up in our homes so far. However, hotel brand Starwood has ambitions to make such futuristic inventions part of the 21st century in which we live by rolling out a number of technological advancements over the coming months and years. It is currently working hard on concept rooms that include an array of smart technology and has already implemented them in selected hotels under three of its brand umbrellas: Four Points by Sheraton, boutique concept Aloft and the sustainable Elements. There is an interactive mirror that guests activate by touching and that can bring up access to weather reports, news headlines and sports scores. Not only this, but travellers can also link the mirrors up to their smartphones so they can see all their apps as they brush their hair or apply their makeup.
A new TV layout with two sets side by side is also being tested, so more than one channel at once can be watched. It might sound indulgent, but this could be ideal for guests such as journalists, who need to keep an eye on a particular news programme but also want to watch something else during lulls in breaking action. However, perhaps the most exciting development is the robot butler that is being tested in two Silicon Valley-area Aloft locations. If all goes well, the gadget will be able to bring guests items such as new towels and toothbrushes to save man hours among staff and improve customer satisfaction.
Other developments in the pipeline include an Oculus Rift experience in the brand’s gyms so pounding the treadmill isn’t quite so tedious. There aren’t yet any dates to indicate when we can expect all of these features in all Starwood hotels, but the company has said it hopes to see at least some in certain chains by the end of 2015. Starwood spokesperson Brian McGuinness said: “We see these kinds of improvements as a way to separate ourselves from the pack. They’re cool and directly impact the quality of the hotel experience, some in ways that are expected and others in a way that’s totally unexpected.”
It’s perhaps not surprising that this brand is proving so pioneering when it comes to technology, as it was one of the first to team up with Apple to offer room entry through the Apple Watch and iPhone. Pilots ran for six months last year and a launch in 125 hotels began in spring this year, with rollout expected to be completed by the end of the summer.