Techno Bliss

This "Room of the Future" is a hi-tech beehive for travelers

By: R. Scott Macintosh

For those wondering what the hotel room of the future might be like, Room 267 at the Hilton Garden Inn near the Los Angeles International Airport has some answers.

The room, known as the “Room of the Future,” is a laboratory, of sorts, used to test new technologies that are designed to enhance a visitor’s stay at the hotel and generally cater to the business traveler.

Members of Hilton’s rewards club for frequent travelers are typically the regular guests and are rotated into the room as an upgrade.

The room is one of 14 in the hotel that are prototypes regularly showcased to franchise owners and developers of other Hilton properties, which include Doubletree, Embassy Suite, Homewood and Hampton Inn, who may be considering new designs or features for their hotel rooms.

While the other rooms mostly feature different design elements, the “Room of the Future” focuses on technology as a way to determine what options are the most cost effective for the hotel and useful to guests.

So Hilton managers, with both the privately owned Hilton Garden Inn and Hilton’s world headquarters in Beverly Hills, spend a lot of time thinking about the room.

“We talk about the ‘Room of the Future’ several times a week,” said Jami Messinger, a technology manager with Hilton. “We’re always talking about new technology and whether it fits in the room. We look at things that a guest can utilize. So we’re not just throwing gadgets in the room.”

But it should come as no surprise that the room does have a good number of gadgets that can’t be found in just any hotel room.

It has a state-of-the-art entertainment system; all of the business tools needed when away from the office, including a printer and fax machine; and ergonomically designed furniture for optimal comfort.

The television is a large wall-mounted Panasonic plasma flat-screen, which is expected to be upgraded soon. It is outfitted with a remote-control interface that also controls the room’s lighting, its temperature and blinds, the DVD player, and the head and foot of the adjustable king-size bed. The bed itself is made with air baffles supported by wooden slats that displace body weight and contour to the body.

“It’s supposed to prevent tossing and turning,” Messinger said.

Among the other features in the living area are a videophone that lets guests get a peak at who’s outside the door, an oxygen ionizer one of the newest features that cleans the air of allergens, and the quintessential leather massage chair.

Free broadband Internet access is also provided in the room, and can be accessed by laptop or on the television via the wireless keyboard.

The bathroom is also loaded with high-tech sophistication that includes a defogging mirror, electric towel warmer, a Japanese-style toilet with bidet and a heated seat cushion, and programmable showerhead in the shower stall.

But the best feature of the bathroom, and perhaps the entire room, is the Jacuzzi tub with a television where guests can soak up the same programming as the bedroom while soaking.

The room is constantly being updated with new devices and there are big plans for the “Room of the Future” in the future.

Though the room already has a biometric safe that reads a thumbprint, the hotel is looking at wider use of biometric identification systems.

Other plans in the works include monitors instead of artwork that will allow guests to display images of their choosing, a sound element (such as the sound of waves crashing on the shore) and voice recognition functions.

The hotel also hopes it will eventually be able to customize each room to suit the guest, based on information and personal preferences they provide as rewards club members, or simply when booking the room.

That can include a specific room temperature, entertainment programming with a customized channel lineup or visual-motif settings.

Admittedly, of all the gadgets that are tried in the room, some just don’t work out, like the bubble machine or the robotic dog with voice-command recognition.

“A lot of things have gone in, but quickly go back out,” said Barbara Bejan, general manager of the hotel.

For booking information, contact Hilton Garden Inn General Manager Barbara Bejan, 310-725-0100.