The newest employee at Gilroy’s Hilton Garden Inn never sleeps or eats. And with the opening of the latest Star Wars movie this week, he’s bound to have plenty of young fans.
He’s a three-foot-high, 100-pound robot named Archie, who delivers room service food and items to guests and he looks a lot like R2D2, only quieter. He navigates elevators and threads through guests walking around the halls or lobbies of the 137-room, four-story building.
Right now he delivers packaged products, but the plan is for him to have cooked panini sandwiches before too long.
“You can tell when kids are checked into a room,” said Mary Pastorini, the hotel’s director of sales and business development. “They keep calling and ordering stuff so they can see him get on the elevator. They love him.”
Archie is the brainchild of a San Jose CEO, Steve Cousins, PhD, and other engineers from renowned robotics think tank, Willow Garage, who started the hotel robot company Savioke in 2013. The company calls the robots, Relay. The company’s founders came up with the name while gazing out a window at an oak tree, a “savvy oak,” which is how the name is pronounced.
Savioke launched the first Relay pilot in August 2014 at the Aloft Cupertino and, less than a year later, deployed at five other hotels: Crowne Plaza Silicon Valley, Aloft Silicon Valley, The Grand Hotel, Residence Inn by Marriott LAX, and Holiday Inn Express Redwood City, all of which still have the robots, the company said.
By Jan. 2016, Savioke had raised $17 million in venture capital funding from Intel Capital, EDBI, Northern Light Venture Capital, Morado Venture Partners, AME Cloud Ventures, and Google Ventures and moved its headquarters from Santa Clara to San Jose. Today, Savioke has contracts for over 100 robots in North America, Singapore, Japan, and Europe. Relay has made more than 165,000 deliveries and navigated over 7,000 miles to date, the company said in a press release.
FedEx uses seven Relays in its TechConnect repair facility to move high-value parts between technicians, allowing them to focus on their repair work instead of constantly getting up to go get parts. In a FedEx store in Manhattan, Relay ferries customers’ phones in need of repair from the front of the store to a repair facility in back
They can deliver anything that fits in the top compartment. At the Hilton, a guest calls the front desk, where clerks stock it with requested items and send it on its way. You don’t have to tip it, although one person left a dollar in the box. When the sandwich service is done, it will cost $10 for a panini, bag of chips, water and a cookie.
“Kids love it,” said front desk clerk, Linda Salinas. “Older people always ask the same question, ‘Isn’t it going to put people out of a job?’ But it doesn’t. We still have to be here to fill it and it saves us from having to walk away from the desk. We can get more work done.”
The robot, named by hotel owner Ken Edwards for Indiana basketball coach Archie Miller, is programmed to call the room when it arrives. Some versions flash an alert on the television.
Businesses pay a monthly fee starting at around $2,000 a month and Savioke offers full time monitoring and service.
Reviewers on various sites love the robot:
“My granddaughters are both hoping to go back soon,” wrote someone called On2Teaching this week on Trip Advisor. “The youngest talked about Archie the whole way home.”
“My needs were all met; had a restaurant on site with fresh food, computer office, a small shop for snacks, even a robot to help!” wrote 723SanAm also on Trip Advisor.