Guests staying at the Hilton McLean Tysons Corner can get a taste of the future when visiting the concierge desk.
The Virginia hotel added a robot, named Connie after Hilton’s founder Conrad Hilton, to its concierge team. The robot, which made its debut about two weeks ago, is powered by IBM’s machine learning Watson technology. Machine learning focuses on the development of computer programs that can teach themselves to grow and change when exposed to new data instead of being explicitly programmed by an individual. As Watson collects data on all the apps that use its technology, it can provide comparison points and insights to the consumer that keep improving over time.
Connie is programmed with several Watson software components, including dialog, speech to text and text to speech, to verbally greet guests and answer questions, says Jonathan Wilson, vice president, product innovation and brand services, Hilton Worldwide. Connie can answer simple questions that guests frequently ask a concierge, such as, “What are the pool hours?” or “Where is the Grand Ballroom?” Guests often ask information about the hotel, local attractions and entertainment, Wilson says.
Hilton’s goal with Connie is to simplify traveling for guests. “The partnership is centered on a goal of personalization by empowering travelers with the quick, tailored information they’re looking for,” Wilson says.
Connie is stationed near the hotel’s reception desk. Front desk employees works with Connie to ensure the robot is secure from theft and that guests know how to interact with it. The front desk also displays signs that explain to guests how to interact with Connie, and employees can also field guests’ questions about the bot.
Since Connie is powered by Watson, which uses machine learning, the more that guests interact with the robot, the more it learns. Connie also uses Watson’s WayBlazer, which is a cognitive travel database that can produce search results for each traveler, so the bot can suggest local attractions outside the hotel.
The Hilton McLean, which hosts about 750,000 visitors per year, is next to Hilton Worldwide headquarters and is often the property for Hilton’s pilots, Wilson says.
“We’re currently conducting roughly 30 tests at the Hilton McLean in partnership with more than 20 of the world’s most inventive companies—all with the goal of making travel easier and more enjoyable for our guests,” he says.
Hilton typically tests innovations for three to six months, and will tweak the idea throughout that time, Wilson says. Hilton will consider feedback from guests, employees and owners when determining Connie’s success.
“We’ll evaluate success based on Connie’s value to our guests and efficiencies created for our team members,” Wilson says. “As with all of our tests at the Hilton McLean Tysons Corner in Virginia, we look for new concepts to check three boxes: create real value for the customer, add efficiencies for team members, and differentiate our brands by surprising and delighting our guests.”
For Connie, answering questions is just the beginning of Hilton’s plans. Hilton is hoping to expand Connie’s cognitive reasoning capabilities. For example, Connie could help make personalized itineraries for guests, he says. “Team members could work with guests and Connie to shape the perfect day’s itinerary, based on when certain museums or attractions are open, when traffic is anticipated to be light and which specialty shops have daily deals,” he says.
Hilton Worldwide and IBM worked together for more than a year on developing Connie, Wilson says. He would not disclose how much Hilton invested in the robot, only that “both Hilton and IBM are significantly invested in testing Connie.”
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