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Germans pioneer hotel heaven

By Steve Rosenberg
BBC News, Berlin

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Steve Rosenberg gets a taste of 21st-Century creature comforts

I love travelling. I enjoy the thrill of discovering new places. But there is something about hotel rooms which often makes me want to turn around, rush home and lock away my suitcases forever.

Over the years I have stayed in some real "shoeboxes" around the world - rooms which have lacked not only size, but also character and comfort.

But thanks to German scientists, the hotel experience is about to be transformed.

At the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering and Organisation, they have developed a "hotel room of the future".

The experimental room has been assembled in a giant laboratory. The idea is to show hotels how new technology can help guests relax.

Flying saucer

To be honest, it looks more like a flying saucer than a hotel room - it is round, white and filled with glass and gadgets.

Steve Rosenberg in German hi-tech hotel room
Our reporter relaxes in blue light and tells his TV to rock him to sleep

"There are no straight lines here, everything is curvy," says my guide, scientist Nikolay Dreharov, pointing at the chairs, tables and walls.

According to Mr Dreharov, research has shown that straight lines and corners in hotel rooms are guaranteed to leave guests feeling depressed.

You won't be depressed in this room. Although, perhaps, a little dazed.

Mr Dreharov presses a button. Suddenly, everything in the room turns red... then green... and then blue.

"We have integrated light-changing sequences," he explains. "You can programme your favourite colour - any colour of the spectrum."

The bed looks like a normal double bed, but it isn't.

On my guide's suggestion, I lie down and tell the computer screen on the wall to "turn on the energy bed".

"Yes, Mr Rosenberg," replies the screen, sounding a little like a cyber-man. "The energy bed is now on."

It certainly is - the bed has started moving and is rocking me gently from side to side like a baby in a cradle. Now that's service!

Future bathroom

There are plenty of other innovations in this futuristic hotel room.

Steve Rosenberg in German hi-tech hotel room
Steve Rosenberg prepares to check his e-mail on the bathroom mirror

There is an "intelligent floor", with sensors that work out where you are heading and automatically turn on the lights to help you get there.

In the hotel bathroom of the future, you can relax in the jacuzzi and, with the help of a remote control, check your e-mails in the bathroom mirror... which doubles as a screen.

There is also a vapour pot pumping out steam filled with the scent of lemons.

Like many hotel rooms, there is also mini-bar. But this one is a mini-robot which brings the drinks to you.

And remember the talking computer screen which switched on the bed?

Well, you can also ask it questions like, "What is for dinner?" or "What time is breakfast served?" and it will speak the answer.

All very clever. But is there a serious point to all these innovations?

"The point of the room," Mr Dreharov assures me, "is to evaluate new technologies and let the service industry improve the service for their guests."

At the end of my short stay, at the touch of a button I turn the window from transparent to translucent and it suddenly becomes a giant video screen.

I climb back onto the moving bed, settle down under the changing soft lights, and watch a film on the window.

Now that's what I call hi-tech hotel heaven.

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