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.

Taking the Stairs

Firefighters in their gear run toward the tower in the 2018 Tower Run; photo by Ewa Krzeszowiak.

If you’re a runner or first responder, what better place is there to test your mettle than Western Europe’s tallest test tower? On September 15, some 1,000 participants will be in Rottweil, Germany, to face the challenging 1,390 steps inside thyssenkrupp’s elevator testing facility for the official Tower Run German Championship. While racing up a 232-m-tall structure might seem a little daunting, it has proved to be an attractive challenge: even though organizers expanded the number of runners, all slots were booked in only a few hours and 300 more people are participating than did last year. It’s not hard to see why. The tower sits in Rottweil, a picturesque, quintessentially European burg that’s the oldest town in the German state of Baden-Württemberg. Runners who make it to the top will be rewarded with breathtaking views of the Black Forest and the Swiss Alps.

International participants, both amateurs and professionals and representing a broad range of ages, will flock to Rottweil from 15 nations, including Austria, Mexico, Italy, France, England, Luxembourg, Switzerland and the U.S. This year, police officers will participate in their own classification.

It has to be daunting to know you have nearly 1,400 steps to climb; photo by Ewa Krzeszowiak.

“The Tower Run has quickly established itself as an attraction and crowd-puller — far beyond the region,” said thyssenkrupp CEO Peter Walker. “As a sporting event it is not only taken seriously but also enjoys an excellent reputation. Here, sports enthusiasts impressively demonstrate that urban mobility does not always have to be functional.”

About 50 runners, including technicians from Spain and Italy, will represent thysennkrupp. “For us, this challenge means conquering the highest heights,” said Francisco Blázquez Castaño, a thyssenkrupp maintenance technician from Madrid. “The test tower in Rottweil is an icon that people all over the world know and admire. We feel like winners just by participating. Our colleagues are very supportive, and that encourages us to try harder and give our best at the Tower Run.”

The thyssenkrupp test tower looks down over Rottweil and the Black Forest; photo by Alicia Wüstner.

thyssenkrupp looks at the Rottweil test tower as a symbol of its engineering skills. It’s here that the company is testing its MULTI units, the world’s only ropeless, vertically as well as horizontally moving elevator. The tower is also used to test and certify high-speed elevators and the latest generation of thyssenkrupp’s TWIN elevators, in which two independent cabins operate within a single shaft. The tower, which houses Germany’s highest viewing platform, is a tourist magnet, drawing nearly 400,000 visitors as of August 2019.

The view from the top is its own reward; photo by Jasmin Fischer.

Escalators as Security Scanners

You’re riding up to the concourse anyway — why not let the escalator take some of the trouble out of flying?

For anyone who’s ever been annoyed or bewildered by the security-check process at airports — a demographic that includes virtually everyone who flies — inventors Charles Bombardier and Ashish Thulkar have a solution that will guide travelers through the process quickly, easily and without a second thought. They call it the Aerochk, a security scanning system mounted on an escalator that checks person, passport and carry-on simultaneously.

Passport, person and luggage enter the scanners simultaneously, keeping all three tagged together in the system.

The system, featured in online magazine Yanko Design, allows travelers to ride up to the gate concourse next to their luggage and passports, which ride on separate conveyors. All reach the top at the same time, squared away and ready to board. Now, if these guys would only turn their attention to the Department of Motor Vehicles and supermarket checkouts …

When travelers reach the top, it’s simply a matter or picking up their passports, grabbing their bags and heading to the gate.