HOT DESIGN: Making the Functional Fun

Devices that explain themselves, environments that adapt to need and demographic and new frontiers in personalization are the bedrock of the Hotel of Tomorrow project spearheaded by Chicago design firm Gettys.

The second edition of this design-focused HOT, which took place in June in New York City, gathered, synthesized and interpreted data from Starwood Hotels, Yesawich, Pepper-dine, Brown & Russell (YPB&R) and the Cambridge Group, a consultancy that works with brands like Pepsi and Dell. It identified 10 megatrends:

  • Automation, featuring increased use of robotics and biotechnology

  • The “experience economy,” where guests view hotels as “blank boxes” in which settings can be downloaded and each room can be different

  • Personalization, allowing guests to “tailor” a guestroom to their own preferences. Bathtubs and beds might conform to the shape of the guest

  • Nanotechnology, the deployment of tiny structures that enable creation of material that is stronger than steel but light as a feather

  • Ubiquitous computing that will bring entertainment to guests in their language of choice and, perhaps, deliver chairs that facilitate business conferences

  • World flattening, enabling business to be conducted all over the place from anywhere and lead to an international, travel-based society

  • Biotechnological manipulation of organisms to perform functions and enhance health through prescription drugs

  • Reinvented retail fostering “tryvertising,” in which consumers can try a product before buying it

  • Modularity that could lead to open-source building design of a “wiki-hotel” based on consumer input.

“It isn't enough to provide some valuable predictions and research on consumer groups and macro trends,” says Ron Swidler, the Gettys senior vice president who developed this HOT with Hospitality Design Group. Eight hotel development and management companies participated in this think tank, which aims to present concepts that can be executed.

What of enabling staff to handle devices like a multi-functional desk chair featuring a backscreen for video chat and/or muscle stimulation, or a voice-activated communications device incorporating cell phone, key card and guestroom-environment control?

“There are two potential opportunities for innovation,” Swidler says. “One is simplicity; look at the iPod. If the device is simple enough in its functionality and universal in its design, it becomes intuitive.

“The other is embodying a user guide into more complicated devices. Imagine that the cost of building a graphic interface into the device has come down significantly; objects could have type that could become larger for people who have a hard time seeing and an audio function that could adjust to the hard of hearing — and they could actually show you how they work before you use them.

“How cool would it be to step up to a shower that converts to a tub or a bed and watch it demonstrate its functionality on screen or in demo mode?”

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