The future is closer than it appears — Motherboard and KAYAK check in to Japan’s robot-staffed Henn-na Hotel. Are they in a for a great night’s sleep or a nightmare vision of the future?

If we’ve learnt anything from the movies, it’s that playing god with technology – whether that be with robots, genetic engineering or artificial intelligence – is sure to plunge the human race into disaster. As artificial intelligence technology improves, Hollywood has flirted with fear that eventually we will create a machine smarter than us – and naturally it will kill, enslave or drive us mad. Recently, both Alex Garland’s Ex-Machina and Spike Jonze’s Her have explored the possibility of a very near future in which mechanised products become a vital aspect of our emotional lives.

But in Japan, it seems that future is closer than we imagined – and nobody seems to fear a world where human and machine live and work alongside one another. With high labour costs and technology that’s years ahead of the west, Japan has embraced robots like nowhere else, to explore the enhanced possibilities of an autonomous, robot workforce.

Motherboard sent reporter Ben Ferguson to stay at the Henn-na Hotel in Sasebo which is staffed by robots. As Ben enters the lobby, he’s welcomed by an English-speaking dinosaur in a bellboy hat and must ask directions from a small robot that looks like a child’s toy. He also checks out one of Japan’s famous retro-futurist capsule hotels (which have been around since the ‘80s but largely failed to take off elsewhere) and takes a surreal tour through Japan’s reinterpretation of the traditional Dutch landscape (hint, there’s tons of neon involved…).

The documentary is the first in a three-part Motherboard travel series sponsored by flights, hotels and car price comparison website KAYAK, which explores cutting edge projects that give us an idea of how technology will reshape our traveling experience in the years to come.

Watch out for episode two, which will be dropping soon.