One of the heaviest industries hit by the COVID-19 pandemic has been the hospitality industry, with people avoiding or advised to avoid hotels and tourist spots as much as possible. Sooner or later, however, the need to stay at some lodging will be inevitable. If you’re staying at a select number of hotels in the US and one in the UK, you can at least take some comfort that you’ll be touch things less just to get some things done, including asking the front desk for some extra amenities.
If staying within a few feet of a stranger that may or may not have the dreaded virus is already a scary thought for some, imagine the paranoia that might ensure from having to stay at a hotel. Of course, these hotels are (presumably) doing their best to sanitize rooms after one guest departs but they might accidentally neglect to disinfect a switch here, a remote control there, or especially the room’s phone.
Google’s proposed solution is both ingenious but also an obvious product placement. Almost like a nod to the intelligent rooms of science fiction, Google is putting a Nest Hub smart display in a few hotels to put Google Assistant at your service. The goal is simple: minimize the need for you to touch things in the room that may have been touched by its previous occupant.
Need to request something from the front desk? Just ask Google Assistant to inform the staff for you. Need to make a restaurant reservation? Depending on where you’re staying, you can also let the frighteningly convincing Duplex make the call. And, of course, you can also entertain yourself with music and videos or control the lights and blinds, presuming the hotel has those installed, of course.
With the Nest Hub’s presence in private rooms, there will undoubtedly be some concerns about privacy. Google assures customers that the camera-less device also has a physical button to switch the mic off (don’t forget to disinfect afterward) and that no audio is stored on the device. Google Next Hubs will be staying with guests at Fairmont Princess, Scottsdale, Dr. Wilkinson’s Resort, Calistoga, Gale and Shelborne South Beach, Miami, Gansevoort Meatpacking and Synergy Chelsea, New York, Hotel Zena and Viceroy, D.C., and Village Hotels across the pond in the UK.