Hilton’s new Connie is a hotel concierge robot with Watson’s brain
Hilton hotels is betting you’ll enjoy chatting with a robot on your next visit, and not just any robot.
The hotel company Wednesday rolled out a partnership with Watson -- yes, the “Jeopardy!”-playing IBM computer system -- to create what it’s calling the world’s first Watson-powered robot concierge.
Connie, for founder Conrad Hilton, has a white spaceman-like body with eyes that light up. (Watson, by the way, was named for IBM’s first CEO Thomas J. Watson.)
The idea isn’t novel. Royal Caribbean introduced robots that mix drinks at the Bionic Bar on its cruise ships. And the quirky Henn na Hotel (Weird Hotel, in English) in southwestern Japan has different types of robots on staff, including one that looks like Connie.
So what does Hilton’s robot do?
Connie will give you information about the hotel’s amenities and services.
For example, if you ask questions like “Where can I eat Italian food?” and “Where’s a great place to eat dinner?,” Connie will first direct you to restaurants in the hotel and then make suggestions about places within walking distance.
Jonathan Wilson, vice president of Product Innovation and Brand Services for Hilton, says it’s all about finding an innovative way to engage visitors.
“Hilton doesn’t believe a guest would rather interact with a robot than a person,” Wilson says. “The hospitality industry is all about people serving people.”
But for some of its 4,600 hotels worldwide that have small staff or lack a concierge, in the future Connie could fill the gap, he says.
For now, the robot is stationed at the McLean Hilton Tysons Corner (7920 Jones Branch Drive in McLean, Va.), and anyone can stop by to ask a question.
No plans for more Connies until Hilton tests this one.
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