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Innovative lodging lands in Manhattan with Space Age hotel

Room 1827 to Mission Control, we have a situation.

The sink stopper won't release. Flooding imminent. Please advise.

"Just press your thumb down and it will pop up," instructed one of the captains manning the front desk of Yotel New York, a Space Age hotel in Manhattan.

Disaster averted. Return immediately to the transformer bed.

The Yotel, which opened in June a few blocks west of New York's Times Square, goes where no other lodging has gone before -- to a world seemingly built by George Lucas, Steve Jobs and a kindergarten room designer. The property is the fourth establishment in the Yotel colonization plan -- the others have landed in London and Amsterdam -- and the first in a city center rather than at an airport.

The hotel halts street traffic with a neon purple Yotel sign that hints at the party inside. In the ground-floor lobby, a solicitous attendant directed me to a line of kiosks where I checked in and collected my room card from the slot. I thanked the man and the machine.

Most of the activity occurs on the fourth floor, where you can follow a river of diversions from the bar and breakfast area (muffins, coffee and tea are included in the rate) to Mission Control (the concierge, front desk and gift shop) to a bank of public computers (often with guests queued up) to the Japanese restaurant Dohyo and finally out the door, to a long throw of a terrace with additional imbibing and dining. There are also rivulets off the main route, including a gym that will do the trick and a lounge-y corner secreted behind a Lite Brite-inspired beaded curtain.

In the public spaces, computers and iGadgets are as de rigueur as facial scruff and gladiator sandals. Indoors, small white tables resembling raised writing tablets allow guests to type and sip coffee without the risk of carpal tunnel syndrome and back strain. Outside, guests laze on plastic couches and stools beneath the skyline stars, the glow of technology illuminating their faces like candles.

A word of advice: Go to your room before you grow sleepy. The so-called cabins -- 669 in total and dressed in white like a Tom Wolfe suit -- are a playground of innovation. The centerpiece, for instance, has dual personalities. Push a button on the desk and watch the furniture turn into a bed, now a couch, back to bed and then a couch again. For even more chuckles, lie down and morph from a flat 180 degrees to a right angle without moving a back muscle.

When you tire of noodling around with the bed or drawing the curtain that turns the bathroom from peeper-friendly to private, store your bags with the automaton bellhop -- even if checkout time is hours away. Yobot, the first and only robot luggage handler in the world, needs food, and your luggage is its sustenance.

The 15-foot-tall Stormtrooper-inspired machine sits behind a glass wall in the lobby, a sleeping monster waiting to be animated. As instructed, I placed my belongings on a shelf and typed my name and an access code onto a screen. A cranelike arm shook awake and swooped toward my totes, tenderly picking them up and placing them in a container. It then swung around to face a wall of large storage spaces and quickly found an opening. It pushed my belongings inside, tucking them into their nest.

Mission accomplished, the automaton returned to its dormant state, where it would remain until another guest needed to stow her belongings or a particular visitor prematurely retrieved hers, just so she could watch Yobot in action.

> If you go:

Yotel New York, 570 10th Ave. at 42nd St. Rates from $199.

For information, call (877) 909-6835 or visit