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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Magic Fingers Goes High Tech

LOS ANGELES -- There was a time when high-tech hotel rooms featured color television and coin-operated vibrating beds. Those days are long gone.


At the Century Plaza Hotel and Tower in Los Angeles, high-tech means surfing the Internet on your television and asking a voice-activated computer to pull back the drapes or draw a bath. The "CyberSuite" represents luxury at its gadgety-finest for a mere $2,000 a night.


Tim Groves, director of sales and marketing at the hotel, admitted the technology attracts more attention than guests. Still, he said the suite's 40 guests to date have enjoyed its gadgets and quickly learned to operate most of them.


"People like to play around and explore here," Groves said on a recent tour. "We give a basic orientation, then we always have someone around for support if a guest needs it."


The former presidential suite, upgraded to CyberSuite at a cost of about $80,000, was meant to coincide with the hotel's 30th anniversary and highlight its commitment to technology. When Century Plaza opened in 1966, it was the first hotel to have color television and electric blankets in every room, Groves said.


A lot has changed in 30 years. For starters, CyberSuite is run by a computer-activated "butler" named Maxwell who, when asked, will dim the lights, adjust the room's temperature and turn some mood music on the stereo. Maxwell, though, has yet to "learn" to mix the perfect martini.


CyberSuite guests can also call Maxwell as they shop on Rodeo Drive or eat lunch with a Hollywood producer on a cellular phone provided by the hotel.


Other gadgets in the CyberSuite include a flat panel television, laptop computer, video game player with accompanying virtual-reality goggles and two televisions with wireless keyboards and mice for surfing the Internet -- even from the room's bed.


CyberSuite points to how hoteliers across the country are turning to technology inside hotel rooms. Many mid-priced chains now have an extra phone line for computer use and some include interactive services through TV such as movie ordering, room service and the ability to pay a hotel bill.


"There are so many hotels for consumers to choose. The way to differentiate yourself has become through services," said Kathryn Potter of the American Hotel & Motel Association, an industry group in Washington.


A recent study by the group showed 47.4 percent of all domestic hotel rooms have in-room data ports for computers, though the percentage of rooms with other technological products such as fax machines and laptop computers is much lower, under 10 percent.