24 May 2024 World leisure: news, training & property
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Spa Business
2023 issue 1

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Leisure Management - The impact of AI

Editor's letter

The impact of AI

Massage robots driven by artificial intelligence are coming to market, while chatbots are becoming ever more powerful. AI could transform our industry if we learn to embrace innovation

Massage Robotics has already launched an AI-powered device photo: Massage Robotics

You’re lying on a massage table but there isn’t a therapist in the room. Instead, you’re scanned by a machine that detects muscle and joint issues and uses energy field imaging to locate ‘blockages’. Then an AI massage robot (that you can interact with in real-time) gets to work, taking these parameters into account.

This may sound like sci-fi, but companies such as Massage Robotics, Aescape and Capsix Robotics are engaged in bringing such products to market.

These early AI massage robots can adjust pressure and technique, but are not yet a match for a skilled therapist, however, by their very nature AI devices have the capacity to learn rapidly and our reporters who’ve tried them say sessions are surprisingly pleasant.

The industry has struggled for years with staff shortages and hasn’t done enough to invest in employee salaries, training or development, so we expect some operators to welcome AI robots that can deliver services reliably and be classed as a capital asset rather than a cost centre.

The risk for the sector, however, is that their arrival will negatively alter consumers’ views of the services we offer, meaning AI robots will need to be deployed with care.

They could prevent staff burnout if used by therapists to assist with treatments and we foresee a time when robots and humans work side by side.

But if we don’t integrate them carefully they could cause harm, so a tactical, industry-wide approach, backed up by effective training governed by leading industry bodies is needed.

Also coming down the AI track are new, highly sophisticated chatbots by Google, Microsoft and OpenAI which act as hyper-personalised internet assistants, guiding purchasing decisions.

In his debut as Spa Business’ contributing editor on page 18, Jeremy McCarthy focuses on chatbots, predicting the tech behind them will change the world on a scale akin to the internet.

People who work in spas are typically focused on hands-on healing, shying away from tech, however, we have a real opportunity to become a leading sector in the use of AI if we tackle it fearlessly and ensure our teams are trained in its use.

Although AI in its many guises still feels a way off, now is the time to prepare to embrace innovation.

Katie Barnes is the editor of Spa Business magazine | katiebarnes@leisuremedia.com

Originally published in Spa Business 2023 issue 1

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