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How Can I Help You? IBM's Watson Powers Hilton's Robotic Concierge

Called Connie, the robot is meant to provide hotel guests with information about tourist attractions, restaurants, and hotel amenities.

How Can I Help You? IBM's Watson Powers Hilton's Robotic Concierge

Connie at Hilton McLean

[Photo: courtesy of IBM]

If you’re a concierge at a Hilton hotel, you now have some high-powered robotic competition.

Today Hilton announced Connie, a robot concierge that uses IBM’s Watson cognitive computing technology.

Designed to help guests with information about things like tourist attractions, restaurant options, and hotel features and amenities, Connie is actually meant to work hand in hand with Hilton hotels’ "team members." In other words, the robots probably aren’t coming for these folks’ jobs just yet.

Connie—named after Hilton’s founder, Conrad Hilton—is currently being tested at a hotel in McLean, Virginia. According to an IBM release, the robot is hanging out near the hotel’s reception area, and is "learning to interact with guests and respond to their questions in a friendly and informative manner."

The robot was programmed to utilize a number of Watson APIs, including those that allow speech-to-text, text-to-speech, dialogue, and natural language classification. The idea is that Connie can greet guests when they arrive at the hotel and then answer questions. As with many such systems, Connie is expected to get smarter, and provide better information, the more it interacts with people.

The Hilton/IBM experiment isn’t the only use of robots in the hotel industry. Robots from a startup called Savioke have been employed at a number of hotels around California to deliver items autonomously to guests’ rooms.

But an IBM spokesperson told Fast Company that Hilton’s use of Watson cognitive computing and machine learning technology sets Connie apart. That’s because, the spokesperson said, hotel guests will be able to interact with the robot in much the same way they would with a human concierge. Connie is even meant to be able to react to guest’s emotional cues, something Hilton hopes will allow its employees to better serve customers.

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