Monday, April 5, 2010 | 1:30 a.m.
Map of ARIA Resort & Casino at CityCenter
3730 Las Vegas Blvd, Las Vegas
Not so long ago, the quintessential Strip hotel room was an exercise in minimalism.
After all, it was more important to be on the casino floor than in the room. So the electronic options included a television with limited channels, a clock radio, maybe a “Magic Fingers” vibrating bed.
In recent years, rooms have gotten more channels, pay-per-view and Internet access. The Strip’s newest accommodations, at CityCenter’s Aria and Mandarin Oriental, are the iPad generation of rooms. The two resorts boast they have the most technologically advanced rooms in Las Vegas, and from the smallest room to the priciest suite, all guests get to experience the new gadgets.
Aria and Mandarin Oriental collaborated with home automation and control company Control4 to bring the next generation of in-room technology to Las Vegas. The system has eliminated most of the clunky functions of standard hotel rooms. There’s no need to get up in the night to change the temperature and there’s no roaring, three-setting heating and air conditioning unit next to the bed.
Need to sleep late into the afternoon after a long night-into-morning on the Strip? No need to stumble to the door to hang the “do not disturb” card. It can be done remotely.
“They’re not just high-tech rooms. Above all, they’re high-convenience rooms,” said John Bollen, Aria’s vice president of information technology.
The guest experience begins with the wave of a keycard in front of the sensor of the hotel room door. As the guest enters the room, the system initiates a welcome sequence -- the curtains open, the lights slowly come to full brightness and the 42-inch HD TV turns on, where guests will find their name in the top-left corner and a set of automated controls to personalize.
The 42-inch TV is the central hub of the room. Options that appear on the TV screen are selected through a remote, operating the lighting, temperature, draperies and video-audio settings, all of which are remembered when guests enter the room each time. In addition to using the remote through the TV, guests can control the room’s environment from a 7-inch touch-screen on the nightstand.
Aside from controlling the room’s environment, the TV also allows guests to check what has been charged to the room and use it like an in-room concierge. The push of a button can get your car pulled to valet or pancakes delivered to your room. For now, all of the system’s features are available only in English, but Bollen said the resorts are looking into adding other languages.
Guests can also check the McCarran International Airport flight board from the TV, which has become one of the rooms’ most popular features, Bollen said.
The automation system and 7-inch touch-screen replaced the traditional alarm clock with a series of wake-up settings that let guests choose drapery, lighting, TV and music options. Want to wake up to Michael Buble and soft room lights? Or Metallica and a sudden blast of sunlight? The touch-screen can set the music, lights, drapes, temperature changes and the TV as wake-up “calls.”
“There’s no snooze alarm on this,” Bollen said. “Once you’re up, you’re up.”
Bollen said the technology isn’t as intimidating as it might seem at first glance, but for those who find it complicated, each device can also be controlled manually.
The in-room technology doesn’t end with Control4’s Suite System. The high-definition TV features standard pay-per-view – $13 per new release — but takes it a step further, allowing international travelers to order channels in their native language for the day. The resorts integrated a DVR system for guests to pause and come back to programs at a later time.
Each room also features a panel of ports so users can hook up their iPod, iPhone, laptop computer and other portable media devices to play music and movies through the 42-inch TV.
If you didn’t bring cords to hook up your gadgets, a pack that includes an Ethernet cable, iPod cord and universal phone charger is available to purchase from the minibar for $20. Bollen said cords are supplied in some of Aria and Mandarin Oriental’s high-end suites.
Planet Hollywood and Golden Nugget both have some facets of Control4’s Suite System technology, but the two CityCenter resorts have the most integrated form of the system. The resorts are networked so, in some cases, the hotel staff knows what a room needs before guests even realize it, Bollen said. A guest attendant might show up with new batteries for the remote without the guest knowing they were low.
“They’re small things,” Bollen said. “But they’re things that make the guest experience better.”