NAO, IBM create new Hilton concierge
Hilton is using the highly advanced AI-powered NAO robot as a concierge for its chain of Hilton Hotels across the US. In a partnership with IBM’s Watson program, the robot called ‘Connie’ (named after Hilton founder Conrad Hilton) is already hard at work the the Hilton Mclean in Virginia.
Guests can ask Connie questions about nearby tourist attractions, hotel facilities, restaurants and bars and get a instant intelligent and helpful response back. Connie cannot check in guests in yet - but we’re sure that’s just around the corner.
Connie isn’t simply a NAO robot with some basic programming added. Hilton's version is powered by Watson software, which enhances its natural language processing so Connie can better understand human speech. It was also designed to improve over time and the more it interacts with people, by storing every question guests ask for future reference. Besides answering inquiries about the hotel, Connie will also be able to recommend tourist spots, restaurants and other destinations, since it has access to WayBlazer's travel platform.
Watson, which famously beat human champions in a high-profile Jeopardy! competition, is IBM's gateway to bringing cognitive processing and AI services to mainstream industries outside the tech industry, albeit in narrow and specific use-cases.
"This project with Hilton and WayBlazer represents an important shift in human-machine interaction, enabled by the embodiment of Watson's cognitive computing," said Rob High, vice president and chief technology officer of IBM Watson, in a statement. "Watson helps Connie understand and respond naturally to the needs and interests of Hilton's guests, which is an experience that's particularly powerful in a hospitality setting, where it can lead to deeper guest engagement."
Patrick Moorhead, an analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy, called Hilton's robot an advance in machine learning.
"This is an innovative use of machine learning," he said. That said, he sees this as more of a "friendly form factor" than a full-on robotics implementation.
However, he suspects other businesses will be paying attention to Hilton's pilot test.
"I think other businesses may be able to improve customer service and satisfaction, replace dumb kiosks or even people who perform this similar task," said Moorhead.