Larry Ellison, the former CEO of Oracle, owns 97% of the actual, physical land of Lanai, one of the eight major Hawaiian Islands. This means he owns the rocks, beaches, roads and the three hotels that currently exist on the island. One of the three hotels, Four Seasons Resort Lanai at Manele Bay, is undergoing a complete renewal. The purpose of my visit was to experience the new guest rooms first hand and get a glimpse of Larry’s vision for his island. The upgrades don’t involve just bedspreads and bathroom fixtures, but a high tech renovation one might call “science fiction luxe.” The resort still retains its uniquely Hawaiian spirit, surrounded by the warm and beautiful raw materials one expects at a Four Seasons property.
This is my little story about how a non-social media conscious, slightly technologically backwards individual embraced one of the most high-tech hotel rooms on the market…and loved it! I’m not sure which feature in the room was the most fun, the iPad that made food appear at my door, the instant mood enhancing lighting, the enormous flat screen TV worthy of hours of binge watching, or HAL (as in HAL 9000 from Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey) – the name I lovingly gave the toilet.
Upon arrival in the ocean front room the bellman gave me a tour of the room’s features. (Unbeknownst to me, my bellman was the pinch hitting Food and Beverage Manager, which explains why we got lost trying to find my room and he refused a tip).
The most important features to master were the “fully integrated and intuitive lighting, temperature, service and privacy controls.” This translates to the very cool wall-mounted control pads conveniently located by my bed, in the bathroom and in the commode that allowed me to choose my preferred light setting. And I don’t mean just ON or OFF. I was able to choose between “daylight,” “sunset,” “relaxation,” and “off”. My faves were “sunset” and “relaxation”. Perhaps “sunset” provided the optimum lighting for that special moment of the day, though I really never could tell the difference between that mode and “relaxation”, which was my go-to setting. All of these choices were available from my bedside lamp as well.
The bathroom was drop dead gorgeous, though from a techie standpoint, most of the features seemed pretty normal until I entered the commode and encountered HAL. For those unfamiliar with the character from 2001: A Space Odyssey, “HAL (Heuristically programmed ALgorithmic computer) is a sentient computer (or artificial intelligence) that controls the systems of the Discovery One spacecraft and interacts with the ship’s astronaut crew.” (Wikipedia)
HAL was a pretty darn smart toilet. When I entered the commode for the first time, I literally yelped when the toilet seat automatically gaped open as it sensed my presence. This feature can be customized to “guy” and both seats raise, or “girl” and just the top cover raises. More HAL features? Well, it basically did everything for me, automatically, except the one thing I went in for in the first place. I don’t have the exact specs on the model, but it’s a Toto, and I know the price tag is more than my first car. Of course, “relaxation” lighting was available in the commode which made the routine bathroom experience seem that much more special.
Upon waking the first morning, I knew I wanted to luxuriate in a room service breakfast on the lanai (in this case, not the name of the island, but the widely used Hawaiian word for porch or veranda). At the Four Seasons Resort Lanai, this was achieved via ordering on the in-room iPad. The process was surprisingly smooth, and the in-room dining application handled special dining requests with ease. Once I hit send, though, I started to fret. Did my order go through? How did I know the kitchen received it? I had to call and check. The young woman who answered the phone giggled and said “Everybody calls to check the first time.”
My only regret? Never having turned on the 75 inch TV. Not once. I was in Hawaii for crying out loud, without spouse or child, why would I watch TV? In retrospect, I admire how that huge electronic device was so non-intrusive. It never occurred to me to turn it on. But I’d sure love to spend a couple of evenings with that TV seeing what shenanigans Frank Underwood was up to in House of Cards.
While things did not go well for HAL and the spaceship crew in 2001, at the Four Seasons Resort Lanai, my HAL was a benevolent addition to my experience. I wonder why I embraced the technology in this room so much more than I do in my real life? Perhaps it was because my dear engineer of a husband was not with me, commandeering the controls and making sure all aspects of every feature were used to maximum efficiency? Alone, I was able to explore the technology in my own way and have fun! Besides, isn’t vacation about escaping what ties us to real life? Thanks Larry, I’ll be back!
[Written by Donna Dyer]
[Images courtesy of the Four Seasons]