Is smart tech the future of travel?

Not all smart tech will plunge us into a Black Mirror-esque dystopia. From robocases and jetlag-fighting digital pills to automata-staffed hotels, the future of travel is filled with android affinity

By Stephanie Cavagnaro
Published 9 Apr 2019, 00:17 BST, Updated 8 Jul 2021, 11:44 BST

Henn-na Hotel, Japan

Photograph by Henn na Hotel

1 // Hotel
Japan's robot-staffed Henn-na Hotel brand is expanding with a further three this year in Tokyo, Aichi and Osaka. From March, Tokyo Disney Resort will open with a front desk manned by a fembot and dinosaur in a bellhop hat and bowtie. Store luggage with a robotic arm or ask the porter-bot to bring it to your room where facial recognition tech replaces archaic keycards.

2 // Suitcase
Travelmate Robotics has created the first autonomous suitcase, which follows owners by tracking their smartphone locations, rolling around at a speed of up to almost 7mph. Available from June, it's as loyal as a pet puppy — just don't lose your phone. RRP: $399 (£321). 

3 // Exhibition
London's Science Museum's latest exhibition, which opened in February, explores our 500-year obsession with automatons. 'Robots' features over a hundred pieces, including a 16th-century mechanical monk and one of the first bipedal bots. Don't miss a 'Robots'-themed Lates on 28 June.

Go with the flow

A pedalo seems primitive compared to this sightseeing vessel. Harnessing the power of human energy, the Paris Navigating Gym will ply the Seine, taking in scenes like Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower. It's a project led by international designers, Carlo Ratti Associati, and Technogym, and will feature augmented reality screens that display the quantity of energy sourced from workouts and data about the river's environmental conditions. Encased in glass, the 65ft-long boat will host up to 45 fitness fiends.


Pill poppers

British Airways has applied for a patent to create a 'digital pill', which can monitor body temperature and stomach acidity to facilitate an optimal travel environment. 

Published in the March 2017 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)


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