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Speech-Enabled Device Roxy Offers Curated Concierge Services

SEATTLE—Move over, Alexa. Roxy is a speech-enabled device that provides curated in-room concierge services. Just ask a question or make a request—it’s designed to intuitively understand and respond immediately. With the added ability to be customized by the hotel property, the possibilities are endless.

“Roxy provides instant access to the hotel’s services and information for any question or request that would otherwise go to the hotel’s staff,” said Cameron Urban, co-founder and CEO of Roxy. “This includes access to hotel items and amenities, weather, events and activities, hours of operation and cost information, wakeup calls and valet requests, on-demand assistance, transportation and navigation, curated recommendations, room service, automated checkout, USB charger, housekeeping and maintenance requests, and music streaming.”

Roxy was created to address the limitations of consumer-facing speech-enabled devices. Urban explained that hotels need full control over the device, with end-to-end customization. “This includes control over the native app experience, the persona, as well as the data sent back to the property,” he said.

The company, based here in Seattle, has a deep bench composed of former Amazon and Microsoft employees. Roxy co-founder Peng “Michael” Shao previously led the Speech Cloud team at Amazon and was responsible for the voice runtime technology powering Amazon Alexa, Amazon Fire TV, Amazon Fire Phone and a number of other products. Fellow co-founder Le “Grace” Huang was previously a software engineer working on Amazon Coins, while Urban previously served at Microsoft as a program manager working on its cloud computing platform, Azure.

“We started Roxy in a garage, hand-building each device out of cherry wood. This enabled us to start setting up pilots with hotels, but as the demand for Roxy grew we knew very quickly that it wouldn’t scale,” said Urban. “We moved to 3D-printed devices—and we moved out of the garage—which we deployed in hotels along the West Coast. Then once we started to expand outside of the States we began manufacturing our flagship device.”

Hotels on board use a simple wizard, which provides control and customization over the property’s information and services, as well as the device persona. Beyond plugging it into a regular outlet and assigning the device to a room, nothing else is required for installation. The device automatically connects to the hotel’s WiFi.

“Guests use the device by asking a question or making a request. If a question or request requires staff involvement, it will dispatch to the right person at the right time,” he said. “Hotels receive detailed analytics with insights into guest behavior and day-to-day operations. This information can then be utilized by the hotel; the hotel can continue to tweak and develop the device as needed.”

What makes Roxy more useful than Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home for hoteliers? It all boils down to full control and end-to-end customization, explained Urban.

“We’ve applied first principle thinking and built a device from the ground up, just for hotels. Hotels want a device that represents their brand, property and voice. They care about using voice technology to provide easy access to property-specific information and services, and they value the impact this has on hotel operations and revenue. They care much less about timers, news, and weather—the things Alexa and Google Home are known for—and that makes the consumer-facing devices akin to the next iHome, a novelty device that has come and gone,” he said. “Our hardware, which has a display, enables hotels to replace the in-room phone, alarm clock and speaker. The hardware is designed to sit on the nightstand and it is easy for housekeeping to wipe down and clean (unlike Google Home, for example, which has fabric). There are two USB ports for charging devices.”

The Roxy team provides support via phone—Urban gives out his personal phone number—and they will travel to the hotel to install the devices, if the hotel wants, and provide suggestions and tips. The team continues to keep in touch with the customer through check-ins and follow-up calls to learn from them and assist with lost or broken devices. Future rollouts will include language translation, ticket purchasing and restaurant reservations.

“We are a customer-obsessed company so we do everything we can to provide over-the-top support,” he concluded.

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