Hotels have always been early adopters of new technology, be it gas lamps or fax machines. Today's wireless hot spots (just when engineers have finished hiding miles of cable in the antique chair legs) are the latest in a long line of innovations geared for our comfort. But seasoned road warriors see high-tech convenience as a necessity, not a luxury and given [an error occurred while processing this directive] that broadband Internet access by the pool is so yesterday, hotels are constantly introducing new gadgets and gizmos. Here's a peek at what could soon become standard:
INFOTAINMENT Can't afford Van Gogh's Sunflowers? At New York City 's Mandarin Oriental you can look at it on a big in-room plasma screen instead. Fed up with art? Then check out a sweeping 97 channels of TV. If you're at the Auckland Hilton, you can read the local paper yours, that is using a PC in the lobby, which prints the current editions of more than 120 international dailies for $5 apiece.
COMFORTECH Press a button in your room at the Peninsula in Hong Kong, and a softly lit path helps you find the bathroom. If someone rings while you're caught short, don't worry the telephone digitally filters out the sound of running water and bathroom echoes.
TECHIE JEEVES At the Ritz-Carlton, Kuala Lumpur, an "IT butler" gives advice on everything from crashed software to the in-room sound system. At Singapore's Grand Hyatt, the butler is virtual you do all your ordering of new towels and other services through TV commands.
MOBILE HELP Restaurants at the Tokyo and Otaru Hiltons accept reservations by SMS (from phones connected to Japan 's i-mode system). They'll even text you on your birthday to tempt you with your favorite dishes.