Female robots get the best reception!

People are much more comfortable talking to female robots rather than male ones working in service roles in hotels, according to a study by Washington State University.

The study, which surveyed people on hypothetical service robot scenarios, also found that the preference was stronger when the robots were described as having more human features such as eyes, a nose and a mouth.

The findings are detailed in a paper published online in the International Journal of Hospitality Management.

“People have a tendency to feel more comfort in being cared for by females because of existing gender stereotyping about service roles,” said Soobin Seo, an assistant professor of hospitality management at WSU’s Carson Business College in Everett. “That gender stereotype appears to transfer to robot interactions, and it is more amplified when the robots are more human like.”

A hotel robot in action in Singapore

Even before the pandemic, the hotel industry struggled with high turnover of employees and some hotels have turned to robots and automation for a variety of functions, from dishwashing and room cleaning to customer service such as greeting guests and delivering luggage.

At the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Las Vegas, they have a selection of female humanised robots called ‘Pepper’ which welcome guests and offer a variety of entertainment options.

Hotel Jen in Singapore has introduced its newest colleagues Jeno and Jena – the first relay robots in an International Hotel in Asia. Jeno and Jena will independently zip around Hotel Jen Orchard and Hotel Jen Tanglin to deliver amenities and room service to guests.

The Robot, “Pepper” Photo credit: Alex Knight/Unsplash

In China, the fully automated FlyZoo hotel chain has only robot staff! Guests interact only with robots and artificial intelligence (AI) features.

For the robot study, participants were presented with one of four scenarios about interacting with an AI service robot in a hotel. In one scenario they were greeted by a male service robot named Alex, who was described as having a face and human-like body. A second scenario was worded exactly the same with just two changes: the robot’s gender was female, and its name was Sara. In two other scenarios, the robots were both gendered and named differently but described as “machine-like’ with an interactive screen instead of a face.

Maybe one day lady robots will look something like this…

Results revealed that female looks and characteristics made customers feel most comfortable. The good news is, there are no robots at Ebuyer – all our friendly helpers are 100% human. Take a look at all our tech here.

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