That's because Chihira Kanae, despite her lifelike features and
long brown hair, is a robot, the third version of a robot in human
form developed by Toshiba and can only answer pre-programmed
She was joined at the ITB fair on Thursday by another robot host
Mario, a small red and white robot made by French Aldebaran
Robotics, showing how they might be put to use in the travel
industry, such as checking in hotel guests.
"The point is to make people smile and give them a unique
experience. It's not to take the place of employees," Fabrice
Goffin, co-founder of QBMT whose software powers Mario, told Reuters
at the fair.
The Marriott hotel in Ghent has been trialling Mario, using him to
hand out room keys, high-five guests and liven up meetings held in
the hotel by reading out presentations.
Marriott was keen to stress that Mario will not replace any human
"For now it's a great add-on service," Roger Langhout, general
manager of the Marriot in Ghent, said.
Airline KLM is also testing a guide robot, Spencer, to help
passengers navigate their way through Amsterdam's Schiphol airport,
one of Europe's largest hubs.
A survey of travelers across Britain, France, Spain, Germany,
Canada, Brazil, Japan, the U.S. and China, done by online travel and
entertainment deals site Travelzoo showed that 80 percent of
consumers expected robots to play a big part in their lives before
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However, the survey also showed people still wanted the human touch
when on holiday and in certain countries, such as Germany and
France, consumers were more skeptical.
"Consumers still want humans in the picture, as otherwise there is a
genuine fear that cultural nuances, humor and irony will be missed
and the holiday experience could become too impersonal," Richard
Singer, Travelzoo's European president, said.
Best Western CEO David Kong said robots were an interesting area but
the technology had to be more useful, such as for cleaning rooms.
"If it's just a cutting-edge cool idea, maybe it won't survive."
(Reporting by Victoria Bryan; Additional reporting by Reuters TV;
Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)
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