AI’s relentless goal of anthropomorphizing everything
 
AI’s relentless goal of anthropomorphizing everything
25 SEPTEMBER 2017 7:30 AM

There is no doubt technology is revolutionizing the hotel stay, but why does it all have to come with a huge dollop of anthropomorphism?

I have always disliked anthropomorphism. I know I am not alone in this. My mother does not like it either. I wince, while watching wildlife documentaries, at all those jolly junctures where producers evidently have insisted on commissioning corny music for footage of, for instance, lion cubs frolicking free in the savannah.

There also is an alarming rise of anthropomorphizing technology in the hospitality business (and no doubt everywhere else) around chat boxes, virtual host services and in-room control systems.

In terms of having people understand that lights can be dimmed or bills paid via artificial intelligence mechanisms, it probably is easier to say, “please use our new bot or app service Terence,” rather than “please use our in-room AI portal conversation and response mechanism technology,” or whatever it might be referred as.

But I dislike the practice of giving things human names, and mostly I do not understand information technology. So Montcalm Luxury Hotels’ interactive live chat Ami; Edwardian Hotels’ “virtual host” service Edward; and Hilton’s robot Connie, named supposedly after brand founder Conrad Hilton, are all unlikely to get on my Christmas card list.

It annoys me as much as the expression “up for grabs” annoys my mother (more of her later).

These are soberly thought-up names, I admit. What else would Edwardian Hotels call it?

Alexa, Siri and Temi also have been invented as names for other technology.

Marriott International, however, has chat boxes AskAnything and AnythingElse, which seem to me to be names far more worthy of applause. Of course, if any such technology brings more differentiation to the hotel, a better guest stay and better and more streamlined operations, then go for it.

One of the very first chat box-y type of things, invented back in those almost tech-less dark days of 1994, also was given a human name, Julia, but that’s my mother’s name, so I like that one.

Dogs and gazelles
My most forceful argument—it still might be very weak—for abandoning this trend is that I want my hotel stays to be an escape from the real world. And in the real world, anthropomorphism can no longer be controlled, much in the same way cane toads and Burmese pythons are now in Florida to stay.

Marriott International’s Aloft brand has voice activism in its rooms that came out of something called Project: Jetson, which might or might not be named after the animated TV show “The Jetsons.” So I propose that, as an inside joke, all such hotel technology from now can be named only for characters from the Hanna-Barbera series.

Choices could be Astro (the dog); Rudi, technically R.U.D.I. (George Jetson’s computer and an acronym for Referential Universal Differential Indexer); and, best of all, Rosie, which actually was a robot.

Or perhaps any time anyone engages with a chat box or in-room thingamajig, terrible background music should fill the hotel room and videos should burst into life showing just-born gazelles continually falling over in gently rippling grasslands.

Then again, I read constantly that George Jetson’s best friend supposedly was his computer R.U.D.I., so maybe yet again, hotel companies are on to a winner while I miserably miss the point.

Perhaps I need to book a long hotel stay in Orbit City?

Or perhaps hotels need to up the ante on anthropomorphism to the nth degree? Give absolutely everything a cute name, from the coffee-serving area to the meeting rooms, from the guest drop-off to the ice machines.

Email Terence Baker or find him on Twitter.

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