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Inside the hotel room of tomorrow

No hotel keys, high-tech work stations, alarm clocks that take spoken commands and other cool features coming to a hotel near you ... at some point.
Using a system of linked rods and small caps instead of a mattress, the Ammique bed is one of nearly 60 cutting-edge amenities on display this week at HITEC, an annual conference for financial and technology professionals in the hospitality industry.
Using a system of linked rods and small caps instead of a mattress, the Ammique bed is one of nearly 60 cutting-edge amenities on display this week at HITEC, an annual conference for financial and technology professionals in the hospitality industry.Courtesy of HITEC

The hotel room of the future has arrived. It’s called Guestroom 2010 and it’s now open in Austin, Texas.

Well, sort of. The room is not actually in a hotel, but rather, at the Austin Convention Center. Outfitted with a massaging bathtub, virtual-reality goggles and nearly 60 other cutting-edge amenities, it’s a featured exhibit at HITEC, an annual lodging and hospitality conference for financial and technology professionals that runs June 16–19.

Now in its third year, the concept may sound like science fiction, but the grounded-in-reality goal is to foster more personalized experiences. “If you as a traveler can tailor your experience to what you want to accomplish, you’re more likely to enjoy your stay,” says Jan Walbridge, spokesperson for Guestroom 2010 sponsor IBM.

Naturally, many of the products on display are still in the prototype, “proof of concept,” wouldn’t-that-be-cool stage, but you may actually see some of them on your next trip. And while you can’t book a room with all of them just yet, that doesn’t mean we can’t take a little tour. Think of it as a day in the life of your next stay.

Checking in at the front desk to get a room key? How 20th century. Soon, you may be able to retrieve a reservation on your cell phone, which you can then swipe across a hallway sensor to unlock your room. That’s the idea behind a collaboration between IBM and VingCard Elsafe that eliminates the need for keys and key cards entirely. “We expect to start seeing them within the next year,” says Walbridge.

Once inside, you’ll probably want to recharge that phone. Using the Wildcharger pad from WildCharge, you can do so without fishing for chargers and hunting for outlets. Simply lay your phone on the pad’s thin conductive surface and it’ll start recharging immediately. The unit currently works with Motorola’s RAZR V3 phone — each device requires its own adapter — but adapters for various Apple and BlackBerry products are in the works.

OK, time to get some work done. The Multi-Media Hub Desk from Uniguest is a centralized desk/workstation with a built-in 22-inch Sony Vaio computer, TV tuner and power-hub for plugging in your personal electronics. With its wood top and brushed metal legs, it’s also quite stylish, which is only fitting as it was conceived by Nolen Niu, the Beverly Hills–based industrial designer to the stars.

Then again, all work and no play makes Jack (or Jane) a dull traveler, so it’s time to stretch those legs, unkink those shoulders and fire up the Wii. In May, Nintendo introduced Wii for Hotels, a disk-free system pre-loaded with tennis, golf and other popular games. Launched in conjunction with Westin Hotels, the units are currently available in 10 properties, including the Westin Times Square, Westin St. Francis and Westin Galleria (Houston).

Or perhaps you’re curious about what recreational opportunities the hotel itself offers. Don the virtual-reality goggles developed by IBM and you can take a tour of whatever amenities have been programmed into the system. The unit is still a prototype at this point, but someday, you’ll be able to visit the virtual spa and reserve a soothing massage without leaving your room.

Speaking of soothing experiences, doesn’t a relaxing bath sound good about now? Introduced in April, the Fountainhead VibrAcoustic Bath tub enhances the aquatic experience with colored lights, original music and “sound-therapy” vibrations. Bathers can choose from four pre-set sound/vibration experiences, modify the lighting and adjust the vibration intensity according to their personal preferences.

When it’s time to chill, it’s time to fire up the Roomlinx Media and Entertainment System, a multi-media unit that delivers everything from high-speed Internet access and video on demand to concierge services and customized hotel information. Making its debut in May at Denver’s trendy Jet Hotel, the unit will also be available at the Country Inn & Suites in Merrillville, Ind., in July, and at the Bohemian Hotel Asheville (N.C.) set to open this winter.

Need to stay in contact while you’re kicking back? If so, the perCushion from Urban Tool can help. Currently in development, this ergonomic pillow-style cushion features a microphone, speakers and Bluetooth capability, so you can pick up calls without having to find your phone or even raise your head. It’s slated for launch toward the end of the year.

Finally, when you’re ready to hit the sack, wouldn’t it be nice if you didn’t have to fiddle with an alarm clock? Imagine if you could just tell the clock when you want to get up and have it set itself? That’s the idea behind Sensory Inc.’s TimeSet technology, which lets you program enabled devices with natural voice commands. According to sales manager Stephen Collard, several manufacturers currently have TimeSet-enabled products in development.

That’s a good thing. After all, given how quickly hotel technology is changing, you don’t want to oversleep.