The Future Hotel Room Is Already Here: Meet Your Robot Butlers and Mechanical Mini-Bar

The seemingly unstoppable rise of tech-driven home-sharing behemoth Airbnb has put the hotel industry on high alert. To differentiate themselves in an increasingly crowded field, hoteliers are tweaking offerings with their own Silicon Valley wizardry.

For the tech companies, it’s an extension of their brand. Not only do they expand their customer base into the commercial world, but they can reach a new subset of potential residential buyers who experience the product in carefully orchestrated conditions at no cost.

Hotels? They’re able to play up the luxury aspects of the technology, do away with inconveniences customers have gotten used to over time, and update an old-school business model.

Curious about what you’ll find in the hotel of the future? Here’s what a few hospitality establishments are installing today.

Fortune Magazine, Peloton, Plum Wine, Botlr, Aloft Hotels
Coming to a hotel room near you, from left: the Plum appliance, the Peloton workout bike and the Botlr room service robot.Photo: Plum: Courtesy of Plum; Peloton:Christopher Anderson—Peloton Cycle; Botlr: Courtesy of Aloft Hotels
Photo: Plum: Courtesy of Plum; Peloton:Christopher Anderson—Peloton Cycle; Botlr: Courtesy of Aloft Hotels

1. Get to your hotel room and touch your phone to the pad on the door to unlock it.

Smart phones have the potential to do away with one of the biggest pain points of staying in a hotel: Opening your room’s door. Several chains, including Marriott, Starwood and Hilton, have select locations that let you use your phone (or smart watch) as a digital room key. Touch your device to the pad on the door and you’re in.

2. Say “Alexa, turn on the lights.”

Every guest at the Wynn Las Vegas will have their own digital assistant by this summer. The hotel is installing Echos in all of its 4,748 rooms, allowing guests to control room lights, the thermostat, drapes, and the in-room television via voice commands. Other services, says CEO Steve Wynn, will be rolled out in the future.

3. Switch on the “Do Not Disturb”…app.

Las Vegas’ Aria Resort & Casino has introduced Control4 technology that lets guests control the curtain, climate, lighting and the room’s “Service Please” signs from a tablet. Guests can also can arrange for wake-up alarms that also open the curtains and turn on the TV.

4. Take a one-person spin class.

The workout bikes that let anyone participate in one of over 4,000 on-demand cycling classes have been installed in more than 30 Westin fitness studios, including Los Angeles, Austin and Denver. And if you’d rather not be surrounded by strangers as you sweat, they’re also available in select guest rooms at some Westin locations.

“Having our bike in a commercial setting allows us to put our product in front of people who may not be familiar with Peloton,” says co-founder and CEO John Foley. “It’s an interactive way for them to experience what we offer as a test-ride.”

5. Get a glass of wine—but not from the minibar.

Plum, makers of an automatic wine dispenser, are hoping to replace the pricy in-room treats now in many rooms. Located in several boutique hotels along the California coast, the Four Seasons Silicon Valley and more, the device can store a bottle for months, and dispenses a single glass of wine at a time, usually for the same price as the hotel bar. The units hold two 750ml bottles, typically a white and a red of the hotel’s choosing.

6. Room service, Star Wars-style.

Robots are slowly working their way into homes, mostly in the form of vacuums and other devices, but the Aloft Cupertino hotel has Botlr, who delivers towels to the pool. And at New York’s Yotel, YOBOT acts as a bellman, storing luggage in locked bins. (You retrieve the bags later with a pin code and your last name.)

A version of this article appears in the June 1, 2017 issue of Fortune with the headline “The Rise of Room-Service Robots.” We’ve included affiliate links in this article. Click here to learn what those are.

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