Technology

A Night in the Hotel of the Future

El Segundo, California - Admittedly, the Hilton Garden Inn's gadget-crammed Room 267 is not your typical lodging. But stay just one night there, and you'll want it to be.

PKF Reprinted with permission from PCWorld.com. This article originally appeared on pcworld.com, 6th June 2003.

Michael S. Lasky, Senior Editor, PCWorld.com

The invitation-only "Room of the Future" is housed in a special Hilton University wing of the property near Los Angeles International Airport. It comes furnished with a legion of next-generation products to enhance guests' business productivity, comfort, and entertainment.

Futuristic Features
"Not all the devices that we expect to be a hit with guests are," notes Barbara Bejan, the hotel's general manager. "But that's fine, since the room's main purpose is to see what guests like and dislike."

Among the niceties of this high-tech hotel room are:

* A wall-mounted, 42-inch flat-screen HDTV Panasonic plasma television connected to a Technics receiver with surround-sound Bose speakers;
* A Philips DVD/CD player;
* A second, smaller flat-screen LCD monitor next to the Jacuzzi bathtub;
* Motion-detection lights that activate when guests enter the room;
* A biometric room safe that uses a thumbprint as the lock and key;
* Free broadband, accessible via laptop or the TV;
* A Panja touch-panel remote control that manages lighting levels and room climate; opens and closes the drapes; controls the TV, radio, and DVD player; and even repositions the head and foot of the king-size bed;
* A compressor-less mini-refrigerator that is completely silent;
* A Panasonic massage chair, a heated toilet seat/bidet, a computerised five-nozzle shower, and a defogging bathroom mirror.

Features that click with customers may eventually be implemented in other rooms in the Hilton family of properties, which also includes Doubletree, Embassy Suites, Hampton Inn, and Homewood.

Already a hit is free guest-room printing, Bejan says. Hilton teamed with PrinterOn, a site that enables remote printing. After guests log on to the PrinterOn page devoted to Hilton Garden Inn, they can send a print job to the hotel business centre's colour printer, which is available around the clock. Or, guests can forward the print job to another hotel in the chain, which will secure the printout until they arrive at the location.

PC World Tests the Room
When Hilton invited PC World to stay a night in the Room of the Future, I jumped at the opportunity. It might be work, but it's work in what Bejan calls "a boy's playroom."

A Smart Card reader lock system allows entry with an enhanced credit card such as the American Express Blue card. I used the hotel-supplied card and immediately spotted the TV camera by the front door. The camera was handy later that evening, when I used the room's Airphone to view and talk with a visitor before opening the door.

Security extended to the in-room safe, which was large enough to hold my laptop. A single flick of my thumb was all I needed to secure my belongings. Another touch of my thumb opened the safe, an easier method than remembering a combination or trying to properly punch buttons.

The wood-paneled room's T-shaped wood desk with its ergonomic chair offered adjustable lighting and a convenient ethernet port for the free Internet access. No notebook? I could have used the wireless keyboard to surf, with the 42-inch plasma TV as a monitor (for $10 a day).

But it was difficult to sit behind a computer with so many other toys available to test.

The Panasonic massage chair, a leather recliner with a remote control, seemed uncomfortable at first. After I started its massager, the stress of the day melted away.



Wait - now the room was too bright! Using the Panja universal touchscreen remote, I closed the curtains and blinds, dimmed the lights, turned on the TV, and switched channels. I was all but ready to move in permanently.

High-Tech Bathing
I walked to the bathroom, which was replete with a glassed-in shower offering five nozzles and computerised water-temperature control. While it sounded luxurious, it proved ultimately more annoying than enjoyable, with a few surprises.



First, guests need 20/20 vision to deal with the plethora of controls. I don't usually wear my glasses into a shower. Since I couldn't see what buttons I was pushing, the crotch-level nozzle blasting 102-degree water came as a shock--and my attempts to shut it off only caused other nozzles to splash me as if I were in a penitentiary riot. (Hilton's plan to install a voice-activated control could be just the solution.) Another surprise: Despite all the high-end design, the shower lacks a soap dish.

I decided to try the Jacuzzi bath, with its overhead flat-panel TV. I poured a capful of shampoo into the water for some bubbles and left the room.

Minutes later, the tub was full of water, and the room was full of suds, spilling onto the floor - a Jacuzzi on steroids. I plunged in and found the controls, realising ruefully why the hotel does not supply bubble bath oil. And the tub TV shows only whatever channel is playing on the TV in the bedroom; no switching from the bathroom. Next, time for the VSS king bed. It was not a mattress, but a system of air baffles and slats instead of springs.



The head, foot, and left and right sides of the bed articulated up and down via remote controls at each side - great for sitting up to read and to watch TV without having to amass pillows.

When I turned off the room lights - the whole dozen of them - with the remote, the room took on the look of a planetarium, what with all the glowing device LED lights scattered about. But I was too comfortable to let them bother me. I woke up the next morning in the same position I fell asleep in.

This might be the room of the future, but after one stay, I want it now. Want to check it out? Hilton Honors members are frequently upgraded upon the room's availability. You can also ask to reserve it directly.

If you want to try it, you may be able to by contacting the Hilton Garden Inn, El Segundo, directly. The magic number, again, is Room 267.

Michael S. Lasky is Senior Editor at PC World and the author of two books and thousands of articles for such publications as Esquire, Playboy, The New York Times, and Parade Magazine.

Original feature http://www.pcworld.com/news/article/0,aid,111042,00.asp



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