By Brooke Porter Katz
October 16, 2014

In a partnership with MIT, Marriott Hotels is trying to revolutionize how business travelers socialize while on the road—and it all begins in the hotel lobby. The centerpiece of the project—currently being tested at the Marriott in Cambridge—is Six Degrees, a social app that taps into LinkedIn accounts to make connections among hotel guests. The app, which only works inside the hotel, is used in tandem with an interactive digital screen and communal LED table in the lobby.

Hotel guests with matching interests or backgrounds—say, they run marathons, graduated from the same college, or are from the same state—will receive notifications and can plan to meet up. The information is also sent to the hotel staff, which can use it to arrange activities based on shared common interests (group runs or happy hours, for example), which will be displayed on the large screen. As for the LED table: it lights up when guests who have things in common place their phones on it.

So far, Marriott says users have responded positively toward the prototype, using it to make professional connections with guests in the hotel. The eventual goal is to roll it out to all 500 properties.

This isn’t the first student-Marriott Hotels partnership—the brand worked with RISD to redesign desks last year—and it likely won’t be the last. According to Len Wolin, the Vice President of Brand Program Management for Marriott Hotels, “We’re rethinking the entire hotel guest experience and looking to non-traditional partners, who will defy in-the-box, group-think to create innovations that will fundamentally alter the travel experience.”

Brooke Porter Katz is an Associate Editor at Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter at @brookeporter1.