IPad? Check. Bluetooth headset? Check. Computerized shower? Er…really?
For the geek on the go, the 3G age offers no end of gadgety goodness. But what about the geek on the stay? What about, in short, tech hotels?
Even if you’re not a geek (and lord knows, if you’re reading this, we really can’t tell), you’ve probably often wondered what it might be like to stay at the hotel of the future. It might look something like this:
Or it might be just a regular-looking hotel that happens to be decked out with some really nifty tech features. While we were hard-pressed to find any levitating robots serving guests cocktails in bed (and believe us, we waited in bed for a long time), we did find that even (especially?) some of the most mundane elements of a hotel stay were subject to modernization.
Here, in no particular order, is a look at some of those features, and where you can find them.
1. Cell-phone-operated door locks and retinal scans
Step 1 of any hotel visit is actually getting into your room, and RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) is all the rage these days. What do you get when you put these two pieces of information together? Doors you can open with your cell phone, of course! (Of course.) If you’re prone to losing your keys, cards, or other stuff entrusted to you on pain of looking stupid, RFID door locks could be just what you need.
This method of gaining entry to your hotel quarters is becoming increasingly popular, showing up in such establishments as aloft Lexington in Virginia, where you can also skip check-in this way (they SMS you your room number, and you just walk in like you live there. Maybe you do. You lucky duck.)
Some places—like Boston boutique hotel Nine Zero—even have what would likely come to mind first if someone said “tech hotel”: retinal scans. Yep, the door just looks you in the eye and lets you in. Unless you’re the wrong guy. Then it shoots you with targeted lasers and summons android French maids to dispose of the body. So make sure you’ve got the right room.
(We are, of course, kidding about that last part; there are no French maids in Boston. But really, do make sure you’ve got the right room.)
2. Personalized room controls
Once you’ve made it into the room unscathed, you’ll probably want to turn on lights, open curtains, control the temperature, flip on the TV, and make phone calls. Yes, you’re a demanding one. Fortunately, tech hotels can handle your prima donna attitude. The CityCenter in Las Vegas, for instance, offers a complex system of automated room controls, tailored to the desires of each guest, that go into effect as the occupant approaches the room from outside: Lights, curtains, TV channels, climate control, and music are programmed to fit your needs.
Other hotels might not be as snazzy, but quite a few offer a “master remote” that controls all of the above from one little console. Okay, sure, you have to press buttons. Life’s tough sometimes. Hey, maybe you can train your poodle to do it for you.
3. Guest sensors
So you’ve got your room just the way you want it—not too hot, cold, bright, dim, or on fire. But at some point, you’re going to want to leave. Or come back. In such cases, it’s useful to have a guest sensor.
Hotel 1000 in Seattle, Washington, has one of these spiffy gadgets, which do just what they say they do: sense when guests enter or leave a room, and adjust the room settings accordingly to save energy. Since it can tell when there’s nobody there, it can also inform hotel staff of good times to change the sheets, vacuum the floors, or spit in the coffee-maker if you’re a lousy tipper.
4. Cisco TelePresence rooms
Want to see your business colleagues across the globe in real time on life-size screens? No? Oh.
Well, if you change your mind, a number of different hotels, including the Sheraton New York Hotel & Towers and the Westin Los Angeles Airport, now offer Cisco TelePresence rooms, which let you do exactly that. It’s almost like being there in person. Only you don’t know if anybody’s wearing pants.
Just because the cell phone you used to open the door has video capability, it doesn’t mean you have to waste your own batteries. Several Rosewood Hotels boast Flip UltraHD Camcorders in the rooms, and they’ll even upload your stuff for you when you leave. Goodbye, having to “rent” a camcorder from Sears (oh, that 90-day return policy…); hello, using hotel property.
6. Green exercise bikes that get you free food
This one’s new. It turns out that the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Denmark offers meal vouchers to guests who spend about 15 minutes on an exercise bike—that powers the hotel. Apparently, busting your buns on the pedals can generate about 10 watt hours of electricity, and that’s good enough for the hotel to give you $36 worth of food (“Thank you, ma’am, your contribution is keeping the pool heated. Please stuff your face as a token of our appreciation”). That’s pretty awesome—you get to lose weight, then gain some of it back, then burn it off again, all while maintaining the environment and the lighting levels in your room.
7. Wii, Guitar Hero, and other video game madness!
Yes, geeks need their video games, and they are relentless. And the rest of humanity? They like video games, too. So a Nintendo Wii is a bare minimum at hotels these days, and if you can get in a Guitar Hero and Rock Band setup and massive gaming screens, like in Chicago’s Hotel Sax, you have officially earned your geek-tel title. Having a Wii handy also opens the door to all kinds of terrible puns—and really, isn’t gaming all about imagination?
8. Mirrors that do cool stuff
When you shave half-naked in your hotel bathroom, it’s just you and your reflection. But now, it can be you, your reflection, and Katie Couric! TV mirrors are getting pretty mainstream in hotels, such as The Flamingo in Las Vegas, and while they’re a pretty simple idea—a two-way mirror with an LCD TV behind it—they look awfully funky. And even though your mother probably told you not to smudge up the mirror with your fingerprints, many of these are equipped with touch-screen technology. So yes, you can touch it. We won’t tell (snicker).
Speaking of mothers, you also have a good example of necessity begetting invention in the ever-useful defogging mirrors. Anyone who’s had to stand there smudging the mirror in vain while trying not to slice their ear off with the electric razor or burn their towels with the inextinguishable hair-dryer will appreciate a mirror that does just what it’s supposed to: show you your face. Or anything else you, ah…feel like looking at.
9. Rotating rooms
Croatia. It’s what nobody would think of if you asked about technology kings of the world—unless, of course, they’ve heard about the rotating hotel rooms at the Solta Island resort, which give everybody a view of the Adriatic Sea for at least some part of the day. It’s no Gravitron—you won’t stick to the walls or anything—but you will rotate with the building 1.3 times daily, and you’ll definitely get your money’s worth if you came for the view.
10. Mini pop-up hotel
Welcome to the hotel that’s on the go more than you are: a sleek, metallic Airstream caravan with all the trimmings (http://www.geeky-gadgets.com/worlds-smallest-pop-up-hotel-to-visit-london-01-03-2010/). Yes, this displaced mini-hotel is so modern it’s postmodern, and it came to London last March so people could fight tooth and nail to win a place inside. It’s only 29 ft. x 7 ft., so there isn’t much room, but it does contain a flat-screen TV, sound system, and a devoted staff of real people, among other luxuries.
Where will it show up next? Probably in space.