A Japanese hotel is going to swap robots for humans

A hotel chain in Tokyo is trying to be the first run by robots, albeit with a few malfunctions along the way, according to a new report.

Japanese travel company H.I.S. has been opening hotels where robots man the front desk, check-in is handled by a kiosk, and face recognition opens the door to your room.

The hotel name, Henn na Hotel (“henn na” means strange in Japanese) underscores the eerie presence of robots and the relative dearth of humans.

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The first hotel opened in 2015 and was recognized by Guinness World Records as “the first robot-staffed hotel” in the world, according to the Japan Times.

H.I.S. is slowly expanding the number of robot-centric locations. A new location opened in Ginza, for example, has two lifelike female robots at the front desk.

The Ginza hotel is the fifth robot-staffed Henn na Hotel opened by H.I.S. in Japan and the first in central Tokyo, according to Japan's Nikkei. The company plans to grow to 100 hotels in Japan and ultimately overseas, Nikkei added.

But guests at some of the robot-centric locations are dealing with the same kind of communication problems that consumers have with intelligent assistants such as Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa.

A report in The Wall Street Journal cites a Henn na Hotel guest who was awakened every few hours during the night when an intelligent assistant in the room kept saying, “Sorry, I couldn’t catch that. Could you repeat your request?”

The guest realized at 6 a.m. that the assistant was responding to his snoring.

And some online Japanese-language travel sites have comments from past guests who have expressed frustration communicating with the in-room assistant called “Churi-chan.”

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“The doll-like device can manage simple hello-how-are-you type conversations and adjust room heating and lighting in response to voice commands. But some guests quizzed her in vain about things like the opening time of the nearby theme park,” according to the Wall Street Journal.

A staff person at a Henn na Hotel contacted by Fox News said that there weren’t any serious problems with the robots overall though the person said that Churi-chan had been removed from the rooms.

“When you actually use robots you realize there are places where they aren’t needed—or just annoy people,” Hideo Sawada, Chairman and CEO of H.I.S., told The Journal.

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