Aloft Hotels debuting a robot butler, Botlr, which can deliver items that one might have forgotten on a trip, directly to your room.


Detroit — In “Star Wars,” R2-D2 and C-3PO were involved in nothing less than vanquishing an evil empire.

But that was make-believe.

In reality, robots are bellhops.

Aloft Hotels, which has a location in downtown Detroit, introduced its newest employee Tuesday — Botlr.

The three-foot robot, which looks like R2-D2 sans arms and legs, brings amenities to guests in the hotel lobby or right to their rooms.

Moving on wheels, the machine has an enclosed bin that can hold anything from toothpaste to bottled water to whatever else the guest might desire.

The android moves briskly — four miles per hour, the same as a quick walk.

To ensure it doesn’t run over your child or pet, it has sensors that detect objects in front of it.

“We love testing new stuff, seeing what’s going to be the next big thing,” said Eric Marlo, innovation manager for Aloft.

When a guest requests something, a staff member loads it onto Botlr and taps the room number on its display.

The robot wirelessly fetches the elevator and tells it which floor to take it to.

Once at the door, it calls the guest and plays a recording to announce its arrival.

Guests are surprised and delighted by the appearance of the electronic courier, said Marlo.

Botlrs are used at Aloft hotels in Cupertino and Silicon Valley in California but won’t join other hotels until next year.

Its appearance at the Detroit hotel Tuesday was to show it to media.

Guests at the hotel said they would be tickled to be served by the robot.

“It’s great,” said Shelly Roman, 38, of Grand Rapids. “It’s funny looking.”

Aloft spokeswoman Ashley Chapman said the robot’s performance of mundane tasks allows hotel staff more time to interact with people.

Also, instead of waiting for staff to have time to deliver something, Botlr can bring it in four minutes.

Marlo says some people stay at the two California hotels specifically because of Botlr.

“People absolutely love him,” he said.

He declined to give the cost of the robot, which weighs 60 pounds.

Once it makes a delivery, Botlr uses its panel display to invite the guest to give him a performance review.

If the review is good, the machine does a little dance, wriggling its frame as it races back and forth, chirping and bleating.

When did the Terminator ever do that?

(313) 223-4186

Twitter: @francisXdonnell

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