MSC Cruises to provide AI-powered personal assistant to guests

Gianni Onorato, MSC Cruises’ CEO, introduces ZOE

MSC Cruises has announced details of a new initiative to roll-out virtual personal assistants on its vessels, providing guests with access to voice-enabled artificial intelligence (AI) services in their cabins.

ZOE, the new AI assistant, has been developed in partnership with HARMAN and Samsung Electronics, and will be available in every cabin. She can speak seven languages and is able to answer hundreds of questions, while also providing information and suggestions about onboard activities or help to book a service.

Like the Google’s own virtual assistant, guests say “OK ZOE” to activate the service, which is controlled with voice commands only. ZOE will first launch on MSC Bellissima and will then be available on each new subsequent MSC Cruises ship, including the upcoming MSC Grandiosa and MSC Virtuosa in 2020.

“The cruise experience is constantly evolving to become ever-richer, offering an increasingly wide choice of services and facilities,” said Gianni Onorato, MSC Cruises’ CEO.

“In 2017 we introduced MSC for Me, an industry-leading digital innovation platform that revolutionised the way that guests were able to customise and personalise their experience. The technology was built into the very design of the new ships, incorporated into every step of the development process of each prototype, from conception and construction.”

“This was just the starting point in providing a connected cruise experience. There was a core guest need to be met, which was to find answers to common questions in a quick and easy way, enabling guests to make the most of their holiday. We researched the latest connected technologies and identified voice assistants and Artificial Intelligence as the way to meet this need, and the work on ZOE began.”

The physical design of the system includes far field microphones and a speaker integrated with a quad-core processor, with guests also able to connect their phones directly to the device via Bluetooth to enjoy their own content.

ZOE has been programmed and trained to respond to more than 800 of the most commonly asked questions on board, with thousands of different variants of each question. MSC says that development of the system included a range of tests on the conversation designs, ZOE’s natural speech recognition and ability to transform speech into text and back again, in addition to other behavioural, experiential and performance tests.

With her underlying artificial intelligence programming, ZOE will also continue learning and developing her responses based on real guest interactions in the future.

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Rob O'Dwyer

Rob is Chief Network Officer and one of the founders of Smart Maritime Network. He also serves as Chairman of the Smart Maritime Council. Rob has worked in the maritime technology sector since 2005, managing editorial for a range of leading publications in the transport and logistics sector. Get in touch by email by clicking here, or on LinkedIn by clicking here.

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