"We're at the beginning of a sea change in terms of technology in hotel guest rooms from what guests expect and need," said John Cahill, chief information officer at the New York-based Affinia hotel chain and the co-author of "Managing Computers in the Hospitality Industry."

New technologies like self-check-in kiosks are cropping up as chains try to win new customers, keep old ones coming back, and cut costs when they can.

Richard Senechal, senior vice president of facilities for Loews Hotels, has gone so far as to call the front desk "a dead duck." One day, you may be able to use your own handheld device to check yourself in, or a hotel staffer might do it for you, getting a read on your preferences in the process. "I think you can make it an even more personal engagement," Senechal said.

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