Anniversaries, Hotels & Robots, Oh, My!

My 4th wedding anniversary was last week and my super awesome beautiful wife, Becky, booked a one-night stay for us at the EMC2 hotel in fabulous downtown Chicago.  To make it significantly more romantic, my wife’s friend (possibly the nicest person in the world) watched the boys for us during the day on Saturday and my sister-in-law was gracious enough to host them for the night.

Becky and I rented a couple of Divvy bikes at Horner Park near Sarah’s condo in Irving park, strapped on our bags, and pedaled our way to the lakefront.  Fighting a strong wind out of the South, which was blowing in some lovely warmth, we made our way down to the Magnificent Mile.

We checked in, dropped our bags off, then wandered over to NoMI for a fancy drink or two.  After that, we took a stroll down the street to the Museum of Modern Art simply because they have a really spiffy gift shop, although we didn’t end up buying anything.  We might have both enjoyed chewing on a really expensive kind of space-age rubber bracelet thingy, though.  Maybe.

Finally, we walked back to the hotel.  The place is brand new, gorgeous, and a little nutty (which my wife and I appreciate) inside and out, and their slogan is “at the intersection of art and science.”

The outside of the Hotel EMC2

The theme of knowledge (in the form of books, file cabinets, and book shelves) and art is pervasive on the inside:

The bookshelves in The Albert in Hotel EMC2

The Albert at Hotel EMC2

Drinks & Dinner

“The Albert” is the name of the restaurant, pictured above.  A couple of cool downtown friends, Sarah (a different Sarah; Becky has quite a collection of them) and Jac, met us for tasty, complicated drinks and witty repartee before Becky and I had a romantic dinner there on Saturday night.  We sat outside since the weather was unseasonably warm – I mean, 70’s in mid-October is nice during the day, but these were the temperatures during the evening, which is wonderful, but quite uncommon.

The food was good.  The desserts were insanely scrumptious.  As in, it must have been laced with cocaine or something.  I would have taken a photo for you but I was physically incapable of pausing in my eating of it.  We each got one.  One was some kind of chocolate thing and the other was a fruity crème brûlée.  I’ll do better at describing such things next time, I promise.

The Room

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The room looked as good as the rest of the place.  Just check out that glass middle-of-the-room shower.  Foolishly, I never pulled the curtain around the shower, so I missed whatever cool stuff was written on the inside of it.  Luckily, mine came with a Becky.

Becky in EMC2 shower

Even the vanity area was extra fancy, with an almost steam-punk style going on.

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Low Tech

One of my favorite low tech amenities was the smartphone music horn amplifier.  It’s like someone stuck the end of a trombone on to a brass smartphone holder.  Yes, I tried it, and yes, it actually worked pretty well.  Neat!

Low Tech Smartphone Amp

High Tech

Smart Lights

All the lights in the room were controlled via smart switches that could control a group or all of the lights in the room at once.  While I love this stuff, it could be a tad confusing for the uninitiated.  You could even control the lights from menus on the TV.

Virtual Assistant

The room came with an Amazon Echo Dot, but wasn’t working due to unfortunate wiring.  Being who I am, I was compelled to fix it and the little Dot was showing it’s sparkling blue ring in short order.

Their plan was to have a skill working on the Dot that allowed you to tell it to “Ask EMC2” for whatever you needed, including controlling the lights and summoning a robot to your room.  Unfortunately, Alexa had no idea what the hell I was talking about, so that was ultimately a fail, even if I could ask for the weather without an issue.

Sometimes You Need a Toothbrush

The EMC2 robots: Cleo and Leo

Did I mention summoning robots to your room?  While Alexa was sadly no help at all, texting a certain phone number to request a toothbrush did, in fact, summon a robot to the room!

Minutes after making our request via text (and having a short conversation about which room, etc.) the nice big flat screen TV in the room began emitting an old-school doorbell sound and a message on the screen indicated our robot had arrived at our door.  Becky happily opened the door and stabbed a finger into its little touch-screen face, answering questions about its visit while it made enough noises that R2D2 would have been proud.

It popped the top of its head open to reveal a shiny new toothbrush and, once Becky completed her poke-fest, we watched it carefully turn around and head towards the elevators, where it waited patiently for the elevator that it silently called.  It made happy noises and politely got out of the way of the people exiting the elevator, finally trundling inside to disappear behind the elevator doors, presumably headed back to its station in the lobby.

A frickin’ robot brought me a toothbrush!  I didn’t actually need one, but I couldn’t resist.

Final Thoughts

The only thing I’m not sure of is how to pronounce it.  It’s written EMC2 rather than EMC2, so I don’t know if I should call it the E.M.C. Squared or the E.M.C. Two (although, for obvious reasons, I prefer the former).

Anyhow, while it wasn’t exactly the cheapest hotel in Chicago, it was totally worth it.  Even with the skill-lacking Echo Dot, it’s still the most technologically advanced hotel I’ve ever stayed in and I’d recommend it to anyone.

– John

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