The marriage of technology and CRE has undoubtedly been one of the best things to happen to commercial development. From multifamily portals and apps that make paying for and maintaining your unit an easy-to-do process, to blockchain technology seamlessly facilitating the process of complex transactions, anyone could look at these advancements in real estate tech and see a very bright future.
On the other side of the coin is when real estate takes technology way, way too far. We’re here to present to you three of the most hilarious ways that CRE really took a nosedive into the murky waters of emerging tech. Enjoy!
1. 100% Robot-Run Hotel
Apparently, even robots can’t have job security. Henn-na, a hotel in Nagasaki, Japan, was the first entirely robot-run establishment of its kind. From the housekeepers to the velociraptors with creepy top hats that greet you at the front desk, this hotel’s over-done application of tech makes their visitors feel more like they’re in a bad episode of Black Mirror than guests in a bleeding-edge establishment.
If this was watching me while I was sleeping, I wouldn’t be sleeping.
Their reasoning for staffing this hotel entirely with robots (aside from the novelty of it I’m sure) was because they claimed that the Japanese labor market was shrinking, and it was more efficient as a business to hire all robotics. Got it.
The irony is, at the turn of 2019, they ended up firing half of their robot staff (a total of 243, and yes, that included the velociraptors) due to unforeseen robotics-related problems they were ill-prepared to keep up with.
The existential question we are left with is, does this mean that not even robots are immune to the pink slip?
Newsflash: McDonalds is trying to replace all of its workers with robots (eventually). And...it’s already gotten started in this Arizona location. What’s happening in this particular Micky-Ds is not so much a criticism as it is a commentary on the harsh reality of robotics replacing humans, and that more and more we will be seeing pilot tests like this popping up in new developments across the country.
Case-in-point, this McDonalds laid off most all of its employees and condensed nearly every job into one McRobot.
I wouldn’t want to get in this guy’s way.
McDonald’s believes that replacing their labor with robots will be the answer to their decline in earnings over the past few years, as well as pressure to pay a minimum of $15/hr to each employee which only further eats into their earnings dilemma (pun intended).
How does McDonald’s combat the issues that the Henn-na hotel had? It setup a 24-hour robot hotline for any robot-related grievances.
I wonder if a robot addresses the complaints?
3. Connie, the Hilton concierge
Here’s a lesson in perception vs. reality.
Connie, IBM and Hilton’s supercomputer lovechild, is the newest addition to a robotics pilot in a Virginia Hilton hotel. Featured as the go-to concierge with its hyper-intelligent Watson-powered mind, Connie was (according to the highly-produced promo) designed to add immense value to the hotel guests’ experience - with far superiority and efficiency than any lousy human could.
But if we’re being real, she looks like she emerged from your son’s old-school collection of Digimon.
The Saint Patty’s Day ensemble really was a nice touch, though.
The thing is, as of right now, robots cannot adapt to unanticipated circumstances, and we all know the hospitality industry is full of that. And apparently, that’s exactly the issue they are running into.
During her pilot residency, hotel guests have been complaining that with the hotel lobby noise, Connie can’t hear them unless they talk super close, and even then she tends to not answer the first couple times, which seems like that alone would cause major frustration.
The most hysterical interaction happened when a guest asked where he could get some food, to which she responded, “I would rather not talk about my relationships and prefer to talk about Hilton Hotels.” Hey, we’ve all had our complicated relationships with food.
In quick defense of their seemingly ineffective technology decision, Jim Holthouser, EVP of global brands for Hilton Worldwide, reported that their decision to make Connie a resident concierge was not part of a widespread decision to incorporate robotics, but simply an experiment with how technology could impact the guest’s experience at the hotel.
"In the hotel business we're in a mature, competitive environment and innovation is key," Holthouser said. "But it has to be purposeful innovation. We're not out to test things to be gimmicky and cute. That buys you nothing at the end of the day in market like this."
We’d say that sums it up pretty well.