America's 10 highest-tech hotels

America's 10 highest-tech hotels
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POSTED: Sunday, April 14, 2013 - 5:00am

UPDATED: Sunday, April 14, 2013 - 5:04am

Whether you're on business or vacation, if you're sleeping in anything more sophisticated than a zippered sack, staying connected is a necessary part of travel.

For years, a crusty USB jack and some intermittent Wi-Fi were enough to constitute a full suite of technological hotel amenities.

How 2.0.

Today's future-forward lodge has to offer in-room nightclub lighting and 3D television just to keep up with the Skywalkers.

The new breed of techie lodging is no less a hotel than a Best Buy with blankets.

These 10 wired hotels are tops among the gadget set:

Hotel 1000, Seattle

Don't be fooled by the design-intensive vibe of this downtown Seattle hotel. Behind the chic décor and furnishings it's a fully networked technolodge.

Highlights include a silent infrared doorbell with sensors that detect body heat (so housekeeping knows when not to interrupt), smart climate control settings, a digital do-not-disturb button and a 40-inch LCD HDTV that doubles as a digital art gallery, displaying works that you can personally select.

There's video-on-demand, surround sound, satellite radio, high-speed Wi-Fi (included with room) and a slew of media hubs for every gadget imaginable.

What's more, innovative plumbing enables the bathtub to fill from the ceiling, an intelligent mini-bar notifies the front desk when it needs stocking, Cisco video phones float around the hotel and a virtual reality Golf Club is swing-ready with more than 50 courses from around the world.

1000 First Ave., Seattle; rooms from $219 per night; 206-357-1000; www.hotel1000seattle.com

Aria Resort & Casino, Las Vegas

This 4,000-plus-room mega-resort lets you customize everything about your stay but the hangovers.

Guestrooms greet you as you enter -- literally addressing you by name -- while the lights and TV turn on and curtains open to reveal spectacular views.

From a single control panel, you can personalize every aspect of your space, including a "good night" button that cuts the lights, shuts the drapes and activates the do-not-disturb sign.

You can customize the lighting, temperature and tunes to wake you in the morning.

The hotel also has wireless Internet (included in room charge) it says is eight times faster than the average U.S. guestroom, along with a 42-inch LCD with a "smart panel" for connecting laptops, game consoles, cameras, MP3 players and more.

Replacing the conventional keycard, RFID (radio frequency identification data) cards sense when you're near your room and unlock the door as you approach.

3730 Las Vegas Blvd., Las Vegas; rooms from $138 per night; 702-590-7111; www.arialasvegas.com

Hotel Zetta, San Francisco

How many gigabytes is a zettabyte? Ask the technorati flooding this new San Francisco residence that lives up to its data-inspired name.

Each guestroom features integrated technology that allows music, movies, emails and more to stream wirelessly from your mobile device to an Internet-enabled, 46-inch flatscreen TV. This, additionally, comes with a library of apps, web browsing capabilities and loads of high-def channels.

A sort of physical "social network," the Playroom is a 1,500-square-foot adult space equipped with the latest gaming consoles, as well as old school classics like Atari and Nintendo. An antique red telephone booth is rigged so you can video chat, snap a profile pic or order drinks and food from the bar.

In case you weren't getting the whole retro-tech vibe, décor includes old floppy-disks-turned-artwork, interactive wall hangings and an art installation made from obsolete hardware like cell phones, computer chips and game cartridges.

55 Fifth St., San Francisco; rooms from $265 per night; 415-543-8555; www.viceroyhotelgroup.com

Hotel Bel-Air, Los Angeles

After a two-year, multi-million-dollar overhaul, this Hollywood Hills icon is wired with the latest tech to keep up with a demanding clientele that has ranged from Marilyn Monroe to Oprah.

Upon arrival, in-room check-in includes a tutorial by the bellman on the use of all guestroom gadgetry -- ensuring you don't freak out later about how to operate the smart toilet.

As you approach said throne -- aka the Neorest 600 -- its motion-activated lid opens automatically and features a control panel for flushing and other functions, like a seat heater and deodorizer. The bathroom also has heated floors and an in-mirror LED television.

Guests book massages or dinner reservations from in-room iPads -- pretty much the luxury hotel norm nowadays -- and there are Bang and Olufsen HD flatscreen TVs, smart lighting with mood settings and a touch-screen phone that lets you control everything from room temperature, lights and media to curtain height.

701 Stone Canyon Road, Los Angeles; rooms from $530 per night; 310-472-1211; www.hotelbelair.com

Yotel New York, New York

An homage to luxury airline travel, this Times Square hotel is unapologetically futuristic. White walls backlit in purple create an ultramodern atmosphere as you check in at touch-screen kiosks similar to those found at airports, only cooler.

Guestrooms (or "cabins") are decked out with purple mood lighting, near-silent heating and cooling systems, a Techno Wall fitted with a flat-screen LCD TV, lots of power points for laptops and other devices, Wi-Fi (included in room charge), an iPod or MP3 connection for playing music through the TV speakers and a motorized bed that expands to full size at the push of a button.

The hotel's tech de resistance is the world's first-ever robotic luggage handler. A 15-foot robotic arm towering in the lobby behind a glass window, the Yobot picks up your luggage and safely stores it in a wall of drawers before or after check-in.

No tip necessary.

570 10th Ave., New York; rooms from $149 per night; 646-449-7700; www.yotelnewyork.com

Scarp Ridge Lodge, Crested Butte, Colorado

Staying at Scarp Ridge Lodge is like renting an entire boutique hotel for yourself and your 10 best buds.

This seven-bedroom luxury ski property comes with a private chef, indoor saltwater pool, game room, cinema ... and piped-in oxygen?

Yep, at an elevation of 9,000 feet, altitude headaches can be an issue. So all guestrooms are tricked out with on-demand oxygen systems, complete with touch panels that let you create the exact altitude you'd like the rooms to simulate.

Address undisclosed; rooms from $12,500 per night; 970-349-7761; elevenexperience.com

Omni Dallas Hotel, Dallas

This 23-story, 1,001-room hotel may be connected to the Omni Dallas Convention Center, but it's a long way from conventional.

Having broken ground just a year and half ago, the place is decked with tech.

Interactive reader boards with touch-screens fill the lobby and let you check everything from flight info to area attractions, news, weather, meetings and events.

Gadgetary highlights in the rooms include all of the usual bells and whistles, plus a 42-inch LCD high-definition television, another TV hidden in the bathroom mirror and motion-sensor LED nightlights underneath the bed.

Outside, 4.3 miles of LED building lights surround the LEED Gold-certified hotel's exterior, allowing it to project brilliant light shows and convention logos.

555 S. Lamar St., Dallas; rooms from $113 per night; 214-744-6664; www.omnihotels.com

Kimpton's EPIC Hotel, Miami

Forget that this 52-story hotel sits on prime Miami waterfront with rooms featuring floor-to-ceiling glass doors leading to private balconies, it's the geeky gadgets that draw all the attention.

The experience begins before you enter your room.

Outside each guestroom door is an INNtouch notification device. Press the privacy button from inside the room to illuminate the LED do-not-disturb indicator, or let housekeeping know to make up your room with the push of a button.

For those annoying times when you have to mix business with pleasure, all 411 rooms have desktop PCs with high-speed Internet, Microsoft Office and a connection to the printer in the lobby.

There's also an Apple gadget docking station to charge your iDevice.

In the 29th-floor Club Lounge, a touch-screen Surface Station map akin to a ginormous smartphone lets you surf the 'Net, listen to music, watch videos and scout local hotspots.

270 Biscayne Blvd. Way, Miami; rooms from $389 per night; 305-424-5226; www.epichotel.com

theWit Hotel, Chicago

This trendy hotel features jaw-dropping city and lake views, a vibrant urban setting and an IP-based infrastructure networking everything from the elevators to room sensors to the basement boiler room.

Within guest rooms, sensor-activated climate controls detect your location and adjust to your body heat. A VoIP touch-screen phone lets you call housekeeping, valet and more without speaking a word; with staff members all connected to the system via iPhone or iPod Touch, they're alerted to your needs ASAP.

In common areas, expect to hear birds chirping during the day and crickets at night, powered by the hotel's digital audio system.

There's also a private movie theater boasting an oversized HD screen.

Notching up the nightlife, Epic just installed a 3D digital wall inside ROOF, its 27th-floor lounge. Typically reserved for large-scale concerts, this image-mapping system delivers resplendent visuals as you rock out to world class DJs and performers.

201 N. State St., Chicago; rooms from $189 per night; 312-467-0200; www.thewithotel.com

citizenM Times Square, New York

Opening in October 2013, this Times Square hotel is set to follow in the footsteps of its affordable high-tech, high-design European counterparts.

Bringing to life the hotel's namesake "M" for mobile, as in "mobile citizen of the world," you're greeted by self check-in computers.

By the time the machine has programmed your personal RFID keycard, your room is waiting for you to enter.

Tech addicts will geek out over the handheld, electronic mood pad that lets you design your entire space. From colored lighting and ambient music to digital art (on your TV), temperature, window blinds and specially designed mood-enhanced wake-up calls (like "wake me gently" or "wake me wildly"), you can direct the room's whole look and feel, all without having to get out of bed.

Bonus: iMacs dot the hotel and there's Wi-Fi throughout.

citizenM Times Square, 216-218 W. 50th St., New York; room rates and phone to be announced; www.citizenm.com 

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