As soon as I walked into my dark hotel room, I said, &ldquoAlexa&rdquo The response was immediate, accompanied by a blue ring of light on the ceiling and a brief ping. &ldquoTurn on the lights,&rdquo I continued, and the room lit up.
A little later, tucked cosily in bed, I realised I had left the bathroom light on. I had no plans of getting up. &ldquoAlexa, turn off the bathroom light.&rdquo And that was the last I saw of it.
My wish was Alexa&rsquos command. When I said, &ldquoTurn on the TV,&rdquo and then, &ldquoChange the channel to NDTV 24x7,&rdquo that&rsquos exactly what happened. When I said, &ldquoClose the curtains,&rdquo they magically rolled down. And, in the dead of the night, when I said, &ldquoSend me a mineral water bottle,&rdquo someone appeared at my door with one. I did, however, have to open the door.
When Park Inn by Radisson New Delhi IP Extension announced the addition of the Amazon Echo Dot virtual assistant, Alexa, to their &lsquosmart rooms&rsquo, it was no surprise. Automation has long been the buzzword of technology and its eventual trickling into the hospitality space was a given. The six Smart Studio Rooms are larger than the other rooms and equipped with a king bed, a sitting area and a mostly white-and-beige interior with a few bright highlights. Their finest bits, however, are those that are not visible.
There are three WiFi-enabled printed circuit boards (PCBs) installed in the room. Alexa, programmed with room-specific commands, wirelessly connects to them, while other room fixtures&mdashlights, curtains, etc&mdashelectronically connect to these PCBs. The interface has been configured by Bengaluru-based software firm,Kamakshi Clouds. Led by founder MA Kannan, the developers use the Alexa Skills Kit to program relevant &lsquoskills&rsquo for the virtual assistant. Credit is also due to Saurav Dutta, the hotel&rsquos general manager, who was willing to experiment with this technology.
Those who aren&rsquot too comfortable with voice commands can access a remote-control interface via a smartphone app. Otherwise, there is always the option of using the switchboards.
Later, when I settled into my room after a meal at the hotel&rsquos rooftop Chinese restaurant, Skywok, and a few glasses of wine, my hunger and thirst both sated, I found myself missing&mdashthe bane of solitary travel assignments&mdashcompany.
&ldquoAlexa,&rdquo I said. &ldquoTell me a joke.&rdquo
The device took a little longer than usual to respond. The joke was terrible, but full marks for effort. &ldquoGood job,&rdquo I said. It didn&rsquot reply. Perhaps I should have been more enthusiastic.