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Hilton hotel chain powers robot concierge with IBM Watson

The Hilton Worldwide hospitality chain is trialling a robot concierge named Connie, backed by IBM's cognitive computing programme Watson

The Hilton Worldwide hotel chain is trialling a robotic concierge service – powered by IBM’s Watson cognitive computing technology – to assist front desk staff in its hotels.

Named after its founder Conrad Hilton, "Connie" – who is being tested out at a hotel McLean, Virginia, near Washington DC – uses domain knowledge from Watson and WayBlazer, a cognitive travel recommendation engine, to provide guests with information on tourist attractions, local restaurants and hotel amenities.

“We’re focused on re-imagining the entire travel experience to make it smarter, easier and more enjoyable for guests,” said Jonathan Wilson, vice-president of product innovation and brand services at Hilton Worldwide.

“By tapping into innovative partners like IBM Watson, we’re wowing our guests in the most unpredictable ways.”

Connie will work alongside Hilton staff to assist with guest requests and personalise guests' stay. The robot uses a number of Watson application programming interfaces (APIs) – including dialogue, speech-to-text, text-to-speech and natural language classification – to greet arrivals and answer their questions by tapping into WayBlazer’s database of travel domain knowledge.

Hilton hopes Connie will be able to learn, adapt and improve its recommendations over time as more guests interact with it. Staff, meanwhile, will be able to access a log of what guests ask it, and the answers they receive, to help them improve the service they provide.

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Robots promote brand loyalty

Rob High, vice-president and CTO of IBM Watson, said the test represented an important shift in human-machine interaction.

“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,” he said.

WayBlazer CEO Felix Laboy added: “We believe providing personalised and relevant insights and recommendations – specifically through a new form factor such as a robot – can transform brand engagement and loyalty at the Hilton.”

Hilton has been testing out a number of other digital innovations in recent years to enhance its guest experience, including digital check-in services and keys, and partnerships with taxi service Uber.

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Connie obviously arrives from good lineage.... Tapping into Watson opens a formidable resource. It's exciting to get a glimpse of the future, though I may not be as sanguine when Connie gives me a ride to the airport before I tell Connie which airport I want....
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