The guestroom as laboratory

Hilton used to call room No. 267 at the Hilton Garden Inn LAX/El Segundo its "room of the future." What a mistake, says Patrick Terwilliger, a Hilton senior vice president: "As soon as we opened the door, it became out of date." In 2000, the room debuted as a proving ground for cutting-edge technology that might one day show up in Hiltons around the world. Although the room is closed to the public, invited guests can stay overnight, as long as they agree to talk about what they like (and what they don't). Over time, Hilton's designers realized they needed to take a more practical approach. "We had an awful lot of gadgets that didn't work together and were difficult to keep running," Terwilliger explains. Today the idea is to figure out the technologies—and that means real-world stuff—to make a stay more comfortable and productive, by studying them closely and updating them often. "We see this room as a living laboratory," Terwilliger says. T+L spent a night to preview what's coming.

AMX Control Module It runs most of the room, from the TV, to the security camera, to the lights. We found the interface confusing (Hilton has since developed a new one).

Bose Stereo, DVD Player, and Speakers Hilton is studying ways to let guests stream music more easily from their laptops and iPods to the stereo speakers.

Biometrics Designers considered replacing the room key card with a thumb scanner, but guests said it would be too Big Brother–esque. Now Hilton is instead testing a biometric safe.

Coffeemaker Most hotel machines make foul coffee. Hilton thinks Philips Senseo coffee pods, relatively new to the American market, might be an upgrade.

Shower You can set the water temperature to the exact degree and pre-program water-pressure settings. Early feedback: fewer buttons would be more user-friendly.

Television A 70-inch high-definition projection system. "Everyone is debating whether TV's should be LCD or plasma," a staffer explains. "Projection could be viable in some rooms."

Wireless Internet It's fast, easy to use, and—best of all—free.

VSS Sleep System In place of a mattress, air baffles on flexible wooden slats conform and mold automatically to the contours of each guest. A version of this feature is already in use at some Hiltons.

Bathroom Mirror A defogging device behind the mirror is a perfect example of simple, appealing technology.