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In the age of machines, will robots ever replace the human touch?

Cetin Sekercioglu, executive vice president of Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts, weighs in.

At Hotel Jen Tanglin Singapore, a traveller with midnight hunger pangs will find piping-hot supper delivered by Jena, a 1m-tall robot programmed to transport amenities and in-room dining dishes.

“She’s efficient, consistent and works 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” says Cetin Sekercioglu, executive vice-president of Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts. “Jena is also able to work the night shift, which most staff prefer to avoid,” he adds.

Cetin Sekercioglu, executive vice president of Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts

Deployed last month, Jena is one of two relay robots servicing Hotel Jen Orchardgateway Singapore and Hotel Jen Tanglin Singapore, making the hospitality marquee the first international hotel brand in Asia to integrate this technology.

In an industry faced with a continual manpower crunch, machines such as Jena help to keep labour costs low while “allowing staff to focus on customer recognition and conversation, key areas that help to elevate the traveller’s experience,” says Sekercioglu.

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But until robotics technology is able to combine artifi cial intelligence with advanced conversation abilities, an android’s ability to problem-solve and interface with guests remains limited.

Instead, Sekercioglu believes that there are untapped opportunities for robots to take on back-of-house functions such as luggage deliveries and stocking of storerooms.

The kicker? Tips are neither appreciated nor required.

PHOTOGRAPHY ANGELA GUO ART DIRECTION JEAN YAP CHAIR CROSSHATCH CHAIR FROM HERMAN MILLER AVAILABLE AT XTRA