Chocolate Pillow | Augmented reality and hospitality… the next generation of hotels?
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Augmented reality and hospitality… the next generation of hotels?

22 Jan Augmented reality and hospitality… the next generation of hotels?

For anyone that knows me, I am a hospitality passionate geek who loves gadgets and fun new toys – particularly those that have an application within the hotel environment.  Having a usual muse around a variety of blogs today, I found a little post about the Google Glass on Mashable which got me thinking, all due to one little sentence…..

I’d use them to augment my terrible memory for people’s names: I’d see someone and quietly ask Google Glass to identify them before they came within earshot

This interested me greatly as it suddenly opened up a huge world of opportunity that I think may have been overlooked for opportunity – hospitality.  I know that apps exist for augmented reality etc and in particular for marketing, but I think that a world of untapped opportunity exists within hotels.  For those unfamiliar with this territory, augmented reality is the process of layering content on top of an image on a device – described as “a technology that superimposes a computer-generated image on a user’s view of the real world, thus providing a composite view” – for example, you hold up your phone to an advert and the advert is recognised by an online service, that then relays information back to your phone making things appear layered on top of the image you see on your phone – kind of like ‘ an instant photoshop’ of an image, but the added content is decided by whoever drives the app – so you could hold your phone camera up to an advert on the train, your phone then recognises the ad, finds a video and overlays this video on to the image on your phone – making it appear that you have magically spawned a character from the paper; this technology is slowly becoming more realistic and real-time with providers looking to create eyewear or similar that is connected to an online service – so when you look at a building, you could see a list appear of all the businesses in that building, or you could look at the door of a restaurant and have a full menu appear in front of your eyes – all very wizardry-style stuff that has huge potential.

Holiday Inn created a form of augmented reality, with pre-recorded videos etc that allow a guest to ‘see’ sporting stars around the hotel; but this is only the beginning of what the technology can do, surely?

The original article I read got me thinking about the huge potential that augmented reality actually has for the hospitality industry for both guests and the hotel.  Now I have come up with a few ideas as below that could really jump the boundary between guest and technology, but I am sure that there could be more as people think about it – okay so these may be far reaching in some cases, but the potential is actually huge when you consider just how quickly this form of technology is actually moving:

Guest recognition:

Okay, this would only really work with something like the Google Glass, however the effect would be magnificent – a guest who has stayed before would immediately be identified (the initial idea sparked from the Mashable post) and all of their preferences, arrival, departure and dining information would appear on a little eyepiece.  the guest could be checked in before they even reach the door.  The extent goes further as restaurants could identify guests allergies or preferences, orders would be recognised by dish then linked to the table and guest images shown to see who has ordered what so the food is served to the correct person.

Imagine being able to wish that guest a happy birthday or anniversary without having to research their profile or being able to know what hot topics to avoid with VIP’s because the system automatically details the latest headlines about them when they arrive.  What about a guest walking towards the bar only to have their favourite drink waiting for them, or for a guest to walk in for breakfast and have their favourite morning beverage waiting for them.

I will admit that some of these are achieved through excellent staff, but they all require research, time and a good long memory which not everyone is blessed with.

Staff Communication:

It is well known in hospitality that the consummate professional never reveals the secret little nods, hand signals or signs used to indicate moving a function along, or starting dinner service or any of the other million things that needs communicating silently between teams.  Imagine having to avoid communicating with kitchen staff on the number of people in the restaurant at one time as augmented reality glasses count the people coming in or augmented cameras noticing guests leaving the building and alerting housekeeping that they can now head down to clean the room as a stay over; how about reception being alerted immediately that the person approaching the desk is the organiser for the huge conference and the conference manager automatically being alerted; potentially having key-phrases programmed to alert departments, such as a guest asking for  fresh towels, the face is recognised and room number given to a housekeeper with a request for towels.

Imagine a staff member in a 500-strong employment pool being told to go and find a certain person in room of people, imagine having that person identified by the glasses you wear so that staff interact more efficiently; how about knowing that the waiter who has just passed you is taking the order for Mr and Mrs Smith to the restaurant or that the broken towel rail in bedroom 46 is still awaiting repair from yesterday because your glasses spotted it.

Guest Information:

Now, whilst guests may not adopt glasses (but who knows…) they will pretty much all have phones, and augmented reality is actually fairly popular amongst smartphone users.  Imagine being checked in and signing in to an app, to have personalised directions to your room on your phone, or getting in to the room to find a bottle of champagne waiting and when you view it through your phone, the General Manager appears in a video to offer personal congratulations on your anniversary.  Now imagine going to the restaurant and seeing a nice meal being brought out, a quick photo reveals it is the beef wellington so you can order it and know the price, or seeing that really delicious-looking cocktail across the room and scanning it to see what is in it, how much it is etc.  Now imagine seeing the bar packed with people – scanning reveals the waiting time or the nearest quiet bar in the hotel, or even allows placing of an order that is then brought to you based on your surroundings and room position.

As you scan your room you notice a few little maintenance issues, that are not highlighted to you but automatically get logged, you can record video of staff interaction, know the name of staff as you approach them and their role in the hotel.

So you head outside – golf courses reveal average par shots and keep score, local structures are explained to you so you actually find out what that mystery barn is behind the hedge, local areas of interest are pointed out, walking routes shown, discounts given on services…

 

Okay, so I am getting self-indulgent, but this is a technology that I feel is going to pretty soon burst in to the hospitality market and potentially change the way that interaction happens.  Already hotels are using smartphones and apps for logging issues and dealing with queries, but the huge divide between engagement and technology is something that augmented reality services can really push forward, creating a truly immersing experience for everyone.

I would be interested to hear other people thoughts and ideas and services that they think could already be breaching this divide as it would be great to have a look at a few of them and see exactly how things are progressing….

Matt Shiells-Jones
matt@chocolatepillow.com

Husband, Author, Hotel Manager and ambitious 'old cat lady'



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