from ars technica
Just arrived to your hotel, desperate for some munch at a decent restaurant nearby, and not really into speaking with human beings? Connie the robo-concierge is here to help. American hotel multinational Hilton has teamed up with tech giant IBM to trial a robotic concierge powered by IBM’s AI software Watson.
The bot has been christened “Connie” after the chain’s founder, Conrad Hilton, and it is currently assisting residents at Hilton McLean hotel, in Virginia. From its station next to the reception desks, Connie helps guests navigate around the hotel and find restaurants or tourist attractions in the area—but it is not able to check them in just yet.
Connie’s physical support is Nao, a French-made 58cm-tall android that has become the go-to platform for educational and customer care tasks, thanks to its relative affordability (about £6,000 or $9,000). But the concierge’s brain is based on IBM’s flagship AI program Watson—the Jeopardy!-winning system engineered to understand people’s questions and answer them in the best way possible.
In this case, Watson’s main role is natural language processing, which enables the bot to welcome guests, grasp their spoken queries, and answer accordingly. The information on local attractions and interesting sites is actually channelled from the database of travel platform WayBlazer, also an IBM’s partner. Connie is also designed to improve itself through interactions with human customers, learning from frequent queries how to fine-tune its recommendations.