When the HITEC Advisory Council first decided to showcase the future of guestroom technologies in an interactive display, they dubbed the project Guestroom 2010. That was 2006, or course, when the year 2010 was filled with as much hope and possibility as there were flying cars in The Jetsons.
The project has since been changed to Guestroom 20X, because, as EPSN’s X Games, P90X and the Vin Deisel movie “XXX” have shown us, things with “X” in the name are much, much more extreme. The real reason, of course, is that capping thinking to the present year would obviously limit the imaginative development of technologies.
So what does Guestroom 20X look like in the year 2010? I had the chance to walk through the display at the HITEC trade show before it was opened to attendees. The results weren’t entirely surprisingly—the installation placed a heavy focus on connectivity, intuitive touch screens and wireless devices—though seeing so many cool devices in one space did make the collective hairs on this technophile’s arms stand up in gee-whiz delight.
Let’s take a walkthrough, shall we?
Outside the guestroom, HFTP CEO Frank Wolfe gave us a first-hand demonstration of Microsoft’s Surface technology. You might be familiar with the digital concierges; they’re already in the lobbies of a number of Sheraton hotels throughout the U.S. If you haven’t seen one before, think of it as a big, table-top iPhone. You use your hands to navigate through a variety of hotel services and area destinations.
That’s not a keycard Wolfe had in his hand. He was actually using his iPhone to emit an audible signal to open the door. These signals would be encrypted and sent to the guest in advance, therefore making a trip to the front desk upon check in unnecessary. It certainly was an interesting application, but I still have one question: What happens if you arrive and your smartphone battery is dead?
If the image on that television looks blurry, it’s because you’re not wearing 3-D glasses. (Not that glasses would have helped. My peers and I tried on the provided pairs, and we all saw the 2-D double image.) The novelty of 3-D TV could probably generate some incremental room revenue—I don’t doubt that. But here’s my concern: I have a hard enough time keeping track of the remote in hotel rooms, let alone a pair of glasses. And what if a guest gives it the ol’ five finger discount and makes it a souvenir? Here’s hoping hotels of the future have plenty of extra pairs on site.
From this little bedside device, Wolfe was able to control nearly every part of the room: TV, alarm clock, blinds, room temperature, etc. This type of technology is already in use in a number of hotel rooms throughout the world, and with good reason—it’s a fantastic innovation that integrates every aspect of the guestroom. (Guestroom 20X also featured an iPad that had much of the same functionality.)
The sleeping area was contained within a slick canopy complete with sound system, reading lights, built-in PC and full multimedia components. (The bed itself had the requisite abundance of pillows, of course). Most notable was the nifty drop-down projection screen at the foot of the bed for optimal television viewing. You’ll also notice an Xbox 360 below the screen, because what better way to drift off to sleep than by pwning some n00bs in a Halo slayer death match?
My favorite part of the display was the James Law International Cybertecture Mirror (a.k.a. a mirror with TV and computer). To begin, the interface was sleek and stylish. (The picture doesn’t do it justice.) But it doesn’t just look pretty. The mirror combines everything a tech-savvy traveler would want: news updates, a TV screen pre-set to favorite channels, Twitter and Facebook threads. It even tracks its user’s health. By standing on a wireless connected scale, the device measures weight, body fat and other information to provide a day-by-day, month-by-month history of your health—one that can be automatically sent to your health-care provider.
The guestroom shower looked innocent enough, until I noticed the four adjustable nozzles in the mood-light fixture in the ceiling. As long as the pressure’s decent, sign me up.
This is one throne worthy of a king. The Fountainhead toilet is equipped with heat-adjustable seat and LED light so you don’t have to fumble for the light switch amid a late-night trip to the WC. There’s no tank on this puppy; the toilet has a quiet, electric pump that provides a strong flush using only 1.28 gallons of water.
For more information about Guestroom 20X, including technologies I didn’t mention above, visit www.guestroom20x.org.