Google Assistant: Does your hotel room need one?
Voice assistants could be crucial for travel in the pandemic era.
Hotel room technology can date very quickly. Alarm clocks which allow you to connect your iPhone seem like a nifty idea, but most of the ones I've seen in recent years have an ancient 30-pin connector. Not much use anymore when Lightning is Apple's interface of choice.
But built-in obsolescence doesn't stop companies promoting travel tech. Google is the latest to have a crack, with a recent blog post talking up the prospects of "hands-free hotel stays".
The centre of the concept is a voice-activated Google Nest hub in each room. Again, tablet technology in hotel rooms isn't a new idea. However, a device which you mostly don't have to touch because you can use your voice to control it makes lots of sense in the coronavirus era. That doesn't mean you wouldn't want the room cleaner to thoroughly sterilise it between visitors, but it's a helpful change.
Google's idea is that you can use the technology for simple requests, rather than needing to phone housekeeping or reception. "You can say things like 'Hey Google, schedule a wake up call,' or 'Hey Google, ask my hotel for extra towels,' or 'Hey Google, what time does the pool close?' and get answers immediately," Google product manager Tom Franklin explains in the post.
One key difference? Unlike a regular Nest device, you don't need to sign in, and the history for the device would be cleared each time, so recommendations would be personalised. The Nest device Google recommends for hotels doesn't have a camera, so it won't capture any footage of whatever you get up to in your room (ahem).
Hotels using the technology could also customise the kinds of requests they handled, depending on their services. Features like mid-stay surveys or automated checkout would also be possible.
Google wouldn't be the only way to approach that problem. Hotels could apply the same approach using Amazon's Alexa, or Apple's Siri.
The biggest barrier to this happening? With travel at a minimum, most hotels won't have the budget right now for rolling out this kind of technology. But I'm hoping it will show up in my room at some point in the future.
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