The Evolution of Starwood’s Aloft Project Jetson.

An Aloft guest teaches Siri to recognize her voice via the in-room iPad.

Source: Starwood Hotels and Resorts

Last year I participated in a Marriott sponsored (TNT) talent network team project entitled Doors Wide Open. Our initiative was to review our ADA (American Disabilities Act) compliant room accommodations and offer insight on how to go beyond the ADA and offer Marriott customers with disabilities, a true Marriott guest room experience. Our team was comprised of various Marriott associates, who like myself were either children of, friends of, or parents of PWD’s, as well as associates who were passionate about seeking a way to improve the full travel experience for others with different abilities.  Our corporate leader for the project was Apoorva Gandhi, the VP of Multicultural Affairs for Marriott International, and with his guidance we were able to highlight many visionary opportunities for our company.

One of our first goals was to find out what our target audience felt about our accommodations from the beginning of their travel experience to the end. This was incredibly useful and a bit sobering as we read the print outs from our guest voice analysis which covered a specified time period of our choosing. One of the many comments I remembered was from a customer who happened to be a person who used a wheelchair. She was also a good friend to one of our members and a world traveler. She described a multi process of changes for just getting to the bathroom after she had gone to bed. Having at the very least the lights and temperature modifications voice activated, would make this task easier to maneuver at night. This was such a simple observation and one that was halfway met with the invention of the “The Clapper” that famous clap on clap off advertisement from the early eighties that was a sound activated electrical switch.

All we needed was to switch platforms, and fast forward a couple of decades. Technology has given us Siri.  Siri is a virtual assistant with a voice-controlled natural language interface that uses sequential inference and contextual awareness to help perform personal tasks for iOS users. Our Starwood hotel brand, Aloft, has taken that technology and incorporated it into a unique offering to their guests. You can now talk to your room, courtesy of Project Jetson.

You can control your room via iPad at many Aloft properties.

Source: Starwood Hotels and Resorts

Aloft’s Global Brand Manager, Eric Marlo, explains, “We literally launched these [Siri-powered] rooms on Wednesday and we’re already thinking about generations two and three,” he told Bloomberg. By the time Project Jetson 2.0 deploys, he said, you’ll be able to control the entire room by speaking to your iPhone—and not just light and temperature and sound. You could have Siri place a Refuel order, which is Aloft’s not-so-fancy term for room service. If you’re staying at a hotel staffed by a Botlr, you could even get your sandwich and Coke delivered by an R2-D2 lookalike. And you could also program “triggers,” or preset preferences, to automatically unfold throughout the day.

Botlr, Aloft’s robotic butler.

Source: Starwood Hotels and Resorts

Although the audience target may have been the millennial traveler, this voice activated room is the beginning of a harmony with universal design that clearly “speaks” to the traveler with mobility limits as well. I cannot wait to accompany my own sister to an Aloft location, which for now the pilot version is in Boston with test locations across the country, in the future. She is a double hip replacement patient with limited use of her hands due to her ongoing battle with Lupus. Having a voice activated room is perfect for thousands of persons with disabilities who love to travel but dread the confinement once they are “tucked in” for the night and have to get up for bathroom breaks or discover the temps have dropped or climbed in their rooms.  This is inspiration for them to be #limitless.

Even though our project, which was was launched early last year, was not connected to Project Jetson, it was just as gratifying to see the progress made for all of our guests. We are still exploring the opportunities we discovered. Have you considered other ways this technology can enhance the lives of persons with disabilities? After reading more on the links provided, please share your thoughts to any obstacles or improvements you see with this evolution of hotel experiences.

Key Words: #limitless, Project Jetson, Aloft, Marriott, disabilities

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