New hospitality robot delivers the goods


Panasonic has built an autonomous delivery system robot called HOSPI. The robot has been designed mainly to serve people in a variety of functions. The HOSPI autonomous delivery robot will assist hotel guests at the Crowne Plaza Ana Narita Hotel in Narita, Japan, in mid-January by offering drink service in the hotel lobby.

Afterwards, it will be moved to the Narita International Airport in Japan to work for five more days. It will be used to collect dishware in the airport lounge.

Panasonic’s robot is already deployed in several Japanese hospitals where it is used to deliver medicine and supplies to patients and hospital staff. This most recent trial run aims to help showcase HOSPI’s capabilities in a hospitality setting and in a crowded airport where it can function well in spite of being surrounded constantly by humans.

Based on preprogrammed map information and using high performance sensors and advanced collision-avoidance algorithm, the robot can move about while staying aware of its surroundings, enabling it to deliver items safely and efficiently without colliding into passersby or various objects along its route. Unlike traditional delivery systems, equipment does not need to be embedded into the walls or ceilings, and guide tapes do not have to be laid down along the route, so delivery destinations and layout changes to facilities may be easily made and at low cost.

Panasonic has said that there are still no plans to install these robots in any location permanently. The company describes it as a delivery machine that just uses certain mapping info with the collision avoidance algorithm along with some of sensors to get around. 

A screen mounted on top of the main body is able to display text, a simple smily face, and other graphics depending on the task at hand. Work on HOSPI has been ongoing since 2004 and it was in 2014 that market-ready HOSPI robots were made available for hospitals.

Hotels started using robots about three years ago with Aloft Hotels testing its Botlr at its Cupertino hotel and Crowne Plaza testing a delivery robot at its Silicon Valley hotel. Aloft then rolled out additional Botlrs last year. Hilton Worldwide introduced a robot concierge last year at its Hilton McLean in Virginia.