The next time you’re traveling, you may be getting restaurant recommendations or driving directions from a machine — and no, I don’t mean your phone. On Tuesday, Hilton Hotels and IBM unveiled their pilot hotel concierge robot, Connie.
“Hospitality is a really interesting use case for Watson because inevitably you have people who need information,” Jim Holthouser, Vice President, Global Brands Hilton Worldwide said in the new promotional video.
“Hospitality is a really interesting use-case for Watson because inevitably you have people who need information,” says David Kenny, general manager for IBM Watson, in the video. “They need to find a restaurant, they need to find a park, they need to get directions.”
“It’s an opportunity to really delight customers in ways that they don’t expect,” adds Hilton executive Jim Holthouser.
Connie was created by multiple companies. The Jeopardy! winner IBM Watson and the cognitive travel platform WayBlazer developed Connie to recognize emotions and to learn more about the customer’s needs as they continue to interact.
Watson provided the technology that enables Connie to speak, integrating a combination of Watson application program interfaces like Dialog and Speech to Text, while WayBlazer set up the travel database that Connie uses to provide suggestions.
Connie’s 58 centimeter-tall blue and white exterior may look familiar because its physical support is from the French interactive humanoid robot manufacturer, Aldebaran. The Aldebaran robot model that houses the IBM Watson to become Connie is actually named Nao, the first generation of which was built a decade ago, in 2006. “NAO is an endearing, interactive and personalizable robot companion,” reads the Aldebaran website.
IBM and Hilton decided to name Connie after Hilton’s founder Conrad Hilton. Connie isn’t replacing humans (live another day lobby boy!) and is instead incorporated with staff.
The first Connie will make its debut next to the reception desk of the Hilton McLean in Virginia.
But IBM and Hilton’s new robot is certainly not the first interactive machine taking over hospitality services. In Japan, the Henn-na Hotel (which translates to “Strange Hotel”) has a crop of humanoid robots and a dinosaur robot interacting with guests.
“This project with Hilton and WayBlazer represents an important shift in human-machine interaction, enabled by the embodiment of Watson’s cognitive computing,” Rob High, IBM fellow and vice president and chief technology officer of IBM Watson, said in the announcement. “Watson helps Connie understand and respond naturally to the needs and interests of Hilton’s guests, which is an experience that’s particularly powerful in a hospitality setting, where it can lead to deeper guest engagement.”