Guy Wilkinson Guy Wilkinson

At the time of writing, the mobile app Pokemon Go – in which players point their mobile phone cameras at real places and imagine themselves training and battling virtual creatures in them — had just become the latest global smart device sensation.

Actually, this phenomenon can be said to have been anticipated in the world of hotels at the new Premier Inn sub-brand The Hub, now operational for more than a year, which already has five UK properties. The brand’s app not only allows guests to book, check in and control the lighting and temperature in their rooms, but even has a great feature that provides recommendations about local restaurants and tourist attractions when guests point their phone cameras at a local map art piece on the guest room wall.

Closer to home, the authors of this article are investigating the use of similar ‘augmented reality’ technology for a themed hotel project in Dubai.

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In fact, self check-in apps that let guests bypass the reception desk and double as virtual room keys have been in use for a few years now in the US, for example, by Marriott and Starwood for their loyalty programme members.

To tout its tech credentials, Marriott launched its virtual reality ‘teleporter’ booths back in 2014, which allow users to ‘travel’ instantly to London or Hawaii right from the lobby bar of the Marriott Baltimore Waterfront on a 4D virtual journey while wearing an Oculus Rift DK2 headset.

At the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference in Dubai this April, South African speaker Graeme Codrington from the TomorrowToday Global company predicted that in the near future, gatherings of the type would be held virtually, with delegates wearing VR headsets in the comfort of their own offices or homes, instead of meeting at hotels.

In related news, Elon Musk’s auto-piloted Tesla cars are all the rage, despite a couple of high-profile accidents that have seen the company working hard on refining its ‘autosteer’ technology.

Hotels are another notable testing ground for cutting edge automation, with Japanese manufacturers now building robots that can replace hotel receptionists, housekeeping attendants, barmen and even entire kitchen staff. Of course there are teething troubles, but the momentum is irresistible.

The prospect of the ‘humanless’ hotel, i.e., one without human employees, but still full of human guests, is no longer science fiction, but likely to become commonplace in our lifetimes.

The full deployment of automation in all kinds of industries is being delayed worldwide because of the social implications, but will inevitably come. The expectation of massive unemployment when machines replace humans is offset against the increasing free availability of information through the Internet, which is eroding the principles of scarcity and monopoly upon which the capitalist system itself is based.