by Tom Mulvihill, The Telegraph, January 30, 2018
It seems inevitable that self-driving cars will revolutionise the world’s roads, but few seem to have realised the potential of driverless technology off the tarmac.
Except, that is, for a new ‘smart’ hotel in Japan.
The recently launched ProPilot Park Ryokan, in Hakone, has taken cutting-edge scientific advances to create what must surely be a world-first – self-parking slippers.
The vital new service – the biggest technological breakthrough in hospitality since Henn-na Hotel brought in robots to staff its reception desk – allows guests to kick off their slippers without care, safe in the knowledge that the artificially intelligent footwear will tidy itself.
Retractable wheels allow the slippers to move around when not being worn, with sensors ensuring they can avoid obstacles while returning to the hotel’s lobby in a spooky display of independence.
Floor cushions and tables at the ryokan (a form of traditional Japanese inn) have also been fitted with automated abilities, allowing guests to rearrange the furniture as they see fit without having to remember where everything went originally.
All these exciting features are demonstrated in a video released by Nissan, the car-manufacturer, which is collaborating with long-established inn Tonosawa Ichinoyu to produce the ‘smart’ accommodation.
What's more, the hotel is giving away a free night's stay to allow one pair of travellers to experience it first-hand (or should that be first-foot?).
To enter, post on Twitter using the hashtags #PPPRyokan and #wanttostay before the February 10 deadline.
The automated furnishings are equipped with a version of the ProPILOT Park autonomous parking technology, developed by the company in October 2017 for its LEAF model of electric car.
But despite its advanced decluttering capabilities, ProPilot Park Ryokan adopts many aspects of an old-fashioned Japanese hotel.
As is customary, shoes are removed upon arrival (hence the provision of slippers), rooms are divided by shōji, the country’s characteristic paper doors, and floors are covered in tatami mats.
The 19 guest rooms, however, are more contemporary, with Western-style raised beds (as opposed to the Japanese futon) and modern amenities such as televisions, minibars and Wi-Fi.