Space Egg hotel robot picks up drinks

Alibaba announces robotic ‘Space Egg’ hotel concierge

Image credit: Alibaba AI Labs

Alibaba AI Labs, the branch of the e-commerce giant responsible for developing consumer artificial intelligence (AI) products, has announced the launch of a robot to look after chores in hotels.

The robot, which has been nicknamed the ‘Space Egg’, was announced at the Alibaba Cloud Computing Conference 2018 in Hangzhou Cloud Town and will be deployed in October.

It is intended to carry out routine tasks in order to free up human staff to perform more complex or social tasks, such as interacting with guests. It is dome shaped, just below 1m in height and moves at speeds of up to 1m/s.

It is capable of delivering laundry, as well as taking and then fulfilling drinks orders. It takes these orders using voice commands, a tablet or hand gestures, later bringing the drink to the customer contained beneath its clear top, which flips open when it locates the correct guest.

The Space Egg houses an internal map and autonomous navigation system, which helps it dodge around obstacles and find its way around hotels. It can control lifts using a communications system and is equipped with facial recognition and Alibaba virtual assistant AliGenie for social tasks.

“We are excited by this tremendous development that is helping us bridge the gap between guest needs and the response time that they expect. Alibaba Ai Labs’ robot is the next step in the evolution towards smart hotels,” said Chen Lijuan, general manager of Alibaba AI Labs in a statement. “The robot will be the ultimate assistant for hotel guests who want everything quickly and conveniently at their fingertips.”

According to Alibaba, following trials in hotels, the company will discuss whether it is appropriate to roll out in hospitals, restaurants and offices.

Savioke – a services robot company – has previously deployed robotic concierge Relay to deliver items to guests in hotel chains including Holiday Inn Express, Crowne Plaza and Embassy Suites. Meanwhile, Henn Na Hotel in Japan has been described as being run by robots, which include three receptionists (one in the shape of a velociraptor), packing robots and virtual assistants in each room.

Earlier this month, co-founder and chairman of Alibaba, Jack Ma, announced that he would be standing down from the company he co-founded in 1999 (now the world’s largest retailer) to focus on charitable and educational work, while passing the reins over to younger leadership.

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