Meeting Mentor Magazine

February 2023

The Future Is Here

Are Your Attendees Ready for Robots?

Robots are coming to your meetings.

Let’s start with Hilton Worldwide and IBM’s collaboration on the first Watson-enabled robot concierge in the hospitality industry. Named “Connie,” after Hilton’s founder, Conrad Hilton, the robot will work alongside Hilton team members to answer visitor questions and requests, quickly sorting through massive amounts of online data. Watson technology and WayBlazers travel domain knowledge power the robot (which Hilton refers to as a “he”). The more guests interact with Connie, the more he learns and improves. The robot also understands multiple languages, nuances in intonation, and non-verbal body and eye movement cues. Click here to see a video of it in action.

MeetingMentor asked Jonathan Wilson, vice president of product innovation and brand services for Hilton, about Connie and meetings: “Connie’s use of cognitive reasoning can make meetings at Hilton properties smarter and more productive because of his ability to field on-the-spot research and data requests.” Example: Hilton team members could work with guests and Connie to develop an itinerary based on when certain restaurants or bars are open and when rush hour is anticipated to end.

The first robot is stationed near reception at the Hilton McLean in Virginia. So far “guests have really enjoyed their interactions with Connie,” Wilson said, and the hotel company is continuing to test and perfect the robot based on guest and hotel operator feedback. Still, with Connie, Hilton aims to “personalize” the guest experience, which begs the question: Is that possible for a non-human?

On the day Connie was announced, Travelzoo cited the following survey findings, part of its “Future of Travel” project. Of 6,211 travelers in Asia, Europe, North America and South America:
• 80% expect robots to play a big part in their lives by 2020.
• 75% believe robots will make their lives significantly better.
• Almost two-thirds would be comfortable with robots being used in the travel industry.

The advantages in using robots in travel? They can deal with data faster, don’t tire, manage multiple languages, have better memory/recall, and save time for human colleagues. The reasons not to use them? Robots take away jobs, are too impersonal, won’t give cultural nuances or irony, aren’t creative enough, and make humans lazy, cite the survey findings.

In an interview with Knowledge@Wharton, author Martin Ford (Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future) looked 10 to 20 years out, when “automation, in the form of robots, smart software and machine learning, is really going to invade across the board [and start] to impact professional jobs…Increasingly the technology is really becoming a replacement or a substitute for more and more workers…It’s going to unfold at a rate that might surprise us.” Ford pointed out the primary question: “Is the job on some level routine, repetitive and predictable?…If the answer is yes, then it’s going to susceptible to machine learning.” — Maxine Golding

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About ConferenceDirect
ConferenceDirect is a global meetings solutions company offering site selection/contract negotiation, conference management, housing & registration services, mobile app technology and strategic meetings management solutions. It provides expertise to 4,400+ associations, corporations, and sporting authorities through our 400+ global associates.

About MeetingMentor
MeetingMentor, is a business journal for senior meeting planners that is distributed in print and digital editions to the clients, prospects, and associates of ConferenceDirect, which handles over 13,000 worldwide meetings, conventions, and incentives annually.

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