Robots take over luggage duties at new hotel

We've seen robots deliver room service,  but now a new generation of automated bots are taking luggage up to guest rooms at a new hotel.

No doubt you've seen stories of robots delivering room service at hotels - that's becoming more commonplace across properties. But a brand new Sheraton Hotel is now expanding duties for a fleet of oversized bots - they can now deliver guest luggage to rooms all by themselves.

"My initial thought was OK, we have robots… now, how is that going to interact with the service we provide," said Fred Kokash, general manager of the Sheraton Los Angeles San Gabriel.

The hotel has a new fleet of TUG robots on staff from a company called Aethon. They are performing three different duties - room service, greeter and luggage hauling. A greeter stands near the front door and can walk guests to any of on-site services - including the fancy new EST. Steakhouse (highly recommended!).

The luggage function is relatively new for these robots, which have made a name for themselves delivering supplies at hospitals nationwide. This is their first appearance in a hotel.

"They’re not here to replace any jobs, they’re not here to eliminate any positions, they’re really here to add on to the experience of our guests," said Kokash.

In our time at the hotel, we noticed guests really taking a liking to the bots - snapping selfies, interacting with them and wanting to know how they work.

First, luggage is loaded onto the bots by a (human) bell person, then the front desk programs which guest room the robot should deliver to. The robot makes it way up to the room all by itself - using a combination of indoor GPS and WiFi to make their way around. The robots start out in the lobby but disappear into the "back of the house" to take the service elevators on their own.

Once outside the guest room, the robot automatically dials the in-room phone and tells the guest an unlock code that will open the pod bay doors. Guests take out their luggage and the robot returns to the lobby.

"To see this being incorporated in the hospitality industry is game changing," said Kokash, who has spent 20 years in the hotel business.

One key aspect to these new robots - common doors at the hotel are equipped with special sensors that allow the robots to open them on their own using a special signal.