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Futuristic Japanese hotel will be run almost entirely by robots

(Courtesy of Huis Ten Bosch)

A hotel in Nagasaki, Japan, has seen the future, and it involves C-3PO offering turn-down service.

At least, that’s the goal for the Henn-na Hotel, set to open this July. The 72-room hotel will be staffed by 10 humanoid robots capable of greeting guests, carrying luggage, cleaning rooms and seizing control of the planet for mankind’s own good.

Okay, not that last one.

The technology for the hotel’s cyborg staff isn’t far from science fiction. The Telegraph reported the robots will come from robotics company Kokoro, which has been developing “actroid,” or human-seeming, robots since 2003. Kokoro’s actroids are generally modeled on the appearance and mannerisms of a young Japanese woman. They can mimic human behaviors such as breathing and blinking, speak fluent Japanese, Chinese, Korean and English, and know how to make eye contact and respond to body language and tone. 

It’s worth noting that “Henn” can mean either “change” or “strange” in Japanese. Both interpretations seem fairly apt.

For those seeking relief from both the change and the strangeness, developer Huis Ten Bosch said the robo-receptionists, bellhops and maids will be supplemented by human staff. However, company president Hideo Sawada told the Japan Times he soon hopes to have robots performing 90 percent of hotel services.

“We will make the most efficient hotel in the world,” Sawada said, as the Japan Times reported.

The building itself will be comparably high-tech, according to CNN. Guests will access their rooms through facial recognition software rather than key cards, and room temperatures will be monitored via a radiation panel that detects body heat. Rather than calling reception, guests in need of additional amenities request them through a hotel-provided tablet.

The hotel will be located in Huis Ten Bosch’s historical theme park, also called Huis Ten Bosch, which is modeled on a 17th century Dutch settlement in Nagasaki. If the pairing of a throwback park and a “smart hotel” strikes you as odd, well, we’ll refer you to the image of a robot in a bellboy’s hat.

Room fees start at about $60 per night, according to a press release.

The Henn-na project is Japan’s first robot-run hotel, but it joins a host of other android-oriented businesses in the country. Earlier this week a Tokyo bank unveiled “Nao,” a 23-inch tall automaton that speaks 19 languages and can assist customers using an ATM. After withdrawing cash from a robot teller, Tokyo residents can take in a robot cabaret or get their hair styled by a 24-fingered hair-washing machine.

And after that? A good night’s rest at a robot hotel seems entirely called for.