Who Designed the Hotel Lobby? Maybe MIT

Hotels are always looking for fresh ideas and arguably spend more time (and money) on the lobby area than anything else. Some hotels create lobby pods while others find a way to bypass the check-in desk. Some add artwork; others prefer atrium styles.

While this definitely fits into the you-can’t-please-all-the-people-all-the-time, Marriott is looking toward the future. They sponsored a challenge to young Generation-Y’ers from MIT to design the hotel lobby of the future and some of the ideas are pretty impressive. Called the MIT Mobile Experience Lab, the university uses a multidisciplinary approach to find solutions by integrating people with information and location.

So what would this collective of future business and leisure travelers like to see in the lobby of the future? They are very visual so a couple must have’s include lobby touch screens to find local destinations and eateries. These screens would be both wall mounted and embedded in tables. (Some Marriott Courtyards have wall screens and they are very cool.) Calling themselves “urban explorers,” these Gen-Y’ers place more trust in peers to help with their “informed wandering” than they do from travel books. This generation, the first to virtually grow up with computers, also assumes a future lifetime of on demand connectivity. I can relate, even though I’m a few years beyond Gen-Y.

Marriott Courtyard lobby

MIT projects like this are not new. An earlier experiment, sponsored by Cisco, examined how a Personal Travel Assistant might prove worthwhile. While some of their conclusions might seem tame today, it is fair to remember that this vision was prepared five years ago, a time when few people had smartphones. Indeed, some of their ideas are very much in use in our travels today.

More recently, their brainstorming included a project called Locast Tourism. This idea, sponsored by Italian broadcaster RAI, incorporates local elements with user experiences. Kind of like an on-the-go Facebook of travel experiences from many perspectives.

What would your challenge be to these Gen-Y’ers from MIT? It sounds like they’re ready for another project!


  1. The kids at MIT never cease to amaze me. I’ve seen some LCD touchscreens at a few courtyard Marriott hotels.

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