Next Stop: Sci-Fi Dystopia; Rather, Quarantine Hotel in China

When we first heard about hotels testing delivery robots that could ride elevators on their own, our first thought was that it was highly weird and disconcerting. That was before COVID-19. Now, these robots are delivering meals and speaking to those in Chinese quarantine hotels in “eerie, childlike voices,” The Japan Times is among news outlets to report. Still highly weird and disconcerting, the elevator-riding robots have seemingly found their purpose as part of a system that involves “ghostly figures in hazmat suits and cameras pointed at front doors” that Chinese authorities have put in place at hotels where people are isolated after arriving from overseas or from one of the coronavirus hotspots. The source describes the setup as “China’s sci-fi quarantine watch.” It brings to mind stories like Margaret Atwood’s fascinating Handmaid’s Tale (the book is better than the TV show) and the highly underrated movie Moon starring Sam Rockwell, in which the actor Kevin Spacey portrays the only “virtual friend” of a man mining alone on the moon. I highly recommend you check the movie out.

Fighting Coronavirus

As the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, China has taken numerous steps to try to contain the spread of the disease. Elevators have been one focal point in the country’s efforts. For example, the photos above sent by ELEVATOR WORLD Correspondent Peng Jie show elevator buttons covered with plastic wrap to protect them from twice-daily spraying of disinfectant, plus record sheets on the wall to certify the cleaning has been done. Peng tells us, “We have been affected in work and daily life since January. Schools and universities remain closed, the same with restaurants and most shops. People are advised to stay at home and go out as [little] as possible. Temperatures are measured everywhere.”

The South China Morning Post reports that people are using objects — such as lighters, or even toothpicks — to press elevator buttons. The article notes that some buildings have adopted voice-controlled systems. Giving a nod to “the most innovative solution so far,” the newspaper relates that holographic buttons are in use in at least one elevator in the eastern city of Hefei. Riders simply press the “button” for their floor. The maker of the system, Easpeed, said it has received more than 100 orders for its touchless elevator button system, which sells for about US$2,163.

On a promising note, KOYO Elevator posted on its LinkedIn page the photo below along with a note that its factory in Kunshan, China, has resumed production, adding, “The epidemic in China has been effectively controlled,” and that company leadership “attached great importance to the timely shipment of goods.”

Back at work at KOYO Elevator’s factory

Otis Elevators in Empire State Building Get Their Due in New Exhibit

On July 29, visitors to the world-famous Empire State Building in NYC have the opportunity to embark on a “journey from the building’s construction to its place in pop culture today.” For elevator (and history, design and technology) enthusiasts, that journey includes a brand-new Otis display, which Otis states “showcases our rich history with this iconic building, as well as our latest technology that transports more than 10 million people each year . . . .” A few years ago, Otis won a hotly competitive contract to modernize the 68-elevator system, a job that included restoration of the Art Deco elevator lobby. At the time, it was the biggest elevator modernization in Otis’ 158-year history. Available with the purchase of a ticket to the Empire State Building’s 86th-floor observatory, the Otis elevator display allows guests to walk through a simulation of an elevator shaft. The display showcases not only how the original elevators operated, but the new technology installed. The new 2nd Floor Exhibits also include vivid, action-packed looks at the site in the 1920s, construction of the buildings, major tenant spaces, most famous celebrity visitors (with signed memorabilia) and, of course, King Kong!! If you’re in NYC, be sure to check it out.

A virtual elevator shaft can be experienced as part of Otis’ new display in the 2nd Floor Exhibits at the Empire State Building in NYC; image courtesy of Empire Realty Trust.
Otis’ new display in the Empire State Building’s 2nd Floor Exhibits offer a trip through time and an in-depth look at the landmark’s elevator system; image courtesy of Empire Realty Trust.