Marriott Hotels hopes MIT’s Six Degrees app will help guests make special connections

Courtesy of Dom Francis
Courtesy of Dom Francis

It’s Tinder for the hotel lobby. Well, sort of. The MIT Mobile Experience Lab has built a meetup app for Marriott Hotels so that guests can connect with others in the hotel based on shared personal interests.

And it’s not just for guests. Anyone wondering through the hotel lobby can download it and give it a try. The app mines personal information posted by guests on their LinkedIn profiles and then finds others staying in the hotel with the same likes or similar histories.

Guests have to download the app, called Six Degrees (yes, a Kevin Bacon reference) and opt in to participate. The app is only available for a short time — for now. It is being tested on Wednesday — and the hotel chain is eager for the curious to come by and try it out — at the Marriott in Kendall Square.

After this initial test, the app is expected to return to the hotel — and potentially other Marriott Hotels — in the near future.

The idea is to use the technology that just about everyone is already carrying to make the hotel lobby into more of a social gathering place, said Paul Cahill, the Marriott Hotels’ senior vice president of brand management.

“Everyone in some form or fashion has their technology. They are all on Facebook, they are checking in,” said Cahill. “We are just trying to enable those behaviors in our buildings.”

In addition to hotel guests being able to meet new people based on common interests, said Cahill, the app can be used by the hotel staff to plan events based on who is staying there at any given time. For instance, he said, if a lot of guests are joggers, the hotel can put together a morning run.

“It gives us the ability to crowd source events in real time,” said Cahill. As part of its effort to freshen up its image, Marriott Hotels reached out to MIT to develop new technologies for use on its properties.

The bigger goal for Marriott is to rethink the role of the hotel lobby in the overall guest experience. At one time, admitted Cahill, Marriott Hotels’ lobbies looked like “formal living rooms.” Its partnership with MIT is part of the Marriott’s “journey to change that.”

Mike Farrell is a technology reporter for the Boston Globe. Email him at michael.farrell@globe.com.
Follow Michael on Twitter