First of all, let’s get one thing straight, when it comes to innovation and cruise travel, I am all for it. So when I saw a press release about ZOE, a new AI enabled Siri-ish-like bot presented by MSC Cruises, I got super excited. Besides hoping that the cruise line will want to get content and user experience tips from me, I think this is one really big step in the right direction towards “Smart-Cruising.”
ZOE is the world's first personal cruise assistant
MSC Cruises and HARMAN Connected Services co-create the future of the Cruise Experience using Machine Learning, Natural Language Processing and Smart Audio technology
What MSC Cruises Says About ZOE
ZOE – the world’s first virtual personal cruise assistant – is poised to take MSC Cruises’ Guest Services to an exciting new level with guest-centric technology that will further enrich the cruise vacation. Developed in partnership with HARMAN and Samsung Electronics, ZOE is a voice-enabled artificial intelligence (AI) tool found in every stateroom. ZOE can speak seven languages, answer hundreds of questions about the cruise and provide information about on board services, guidance and suggestions or help to book a service. An easy to use device – guests simply say, “OK ZOE”, and she’s ready to help. The advanced voice recognition feature makes it easy for everyone to control and access information using only voice commands.
ZOE is a first in the cruise industry and another example of how MSC Cruises continues to lead the way by employing technology to enhance the guest experience. ZOE will launch on MSC Bellissima and will then be available on each following new ship, including the upcoming MSC Grandiosa in 2019 and MSC Virtuosa in 2020.
Gianni Onorato, MSC Cruises’ CEO commented, “The cruise experience is constantly evolving to become ever-richer, offering an increasingly wide choice of services and facilities. In 2017, we introduced MSC for Me, an industry-leading digital innovation platform that revolutionized the way that guests were able to customize and personalize 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 to construction.”
Mr Onorato continued, “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 vacation. 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.”
This ground-breaking AI guest service has been developed in partnership with the MSC Cruises’ Business Innovation team and HARMAN International, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Samsung Electronics. The collaboration has brought together the best-in-class expertise in voice-enabled technology and cruise expertise as part of a shared vision for connected living, now extended to the cruise industry.
“Today, customers have increasingly high expectations for connected experiences wherever they live, work and, now, travel,” said Sanjay Dhawan, President – Connected Services and CTO, HARMAN. “Digital Assistants and voice recognition technologies are transforming the opportunity to create a guest experience that is highly personal, adaptable and intuitive. Our team at HARMAN Connected Services is incredibly excited to bring this innovation to MSC Cruises as we modernize and enhance the guest experience from the start to the end.”
ZOE’s physical design features advanced audio with far field microphones and a professional quality speaker to provide the best audio experience. Guests will enjoy fast response times, thanks to the integration of a top-of-the-line quad-core processor, and also have the opportunity to connect their phones directly to the device through Bluetooth to enjoy music, podcasts and more directly in their staterooms. In the future, ZOE will be able to offer further personalization and embedded experiences, and will also become a cross-channel personal assistant that will take on new forms within MSC for Me.
ZOE has been designed to enrich MSC for Me by interacting with the in-stateroom TV. Long-term innovation partner Samsung Electronics, designed the Hotel Management System software that allows the personal assistant to connect with the TV to provide guests further in-depth information and other guest services.
Hyesung Ha, Senior Vice President Of Enterprise Product Marketing Group, Samsung Electronics commented, “Samsung has always been committed to leveraging its technology leadership to improve the quality of people’s lives and to bring innovations to the world. The partnership with MSC Cruises is an example of how our advanced solutions enhance the guest experience: not only displays to access information and infotainment content on board, but a true comprehensive digital experience. Thanks to this long-lasting partnership, Samsung and MSC Cruises are bringing innovation to the cruise industry.”
Answering Guest Questions From The Comfort Of Their Staterooms
To ensure ZOE could respond effectively to all guests, she has been programmed and trained to respond to more than 800 of the most commonly asked questions with thousands of different variants of each question. The conversation designs, ZOE’s natural speech recognition and ability to transform speech into text and back again has undergone significant testing, in addition to a variety of other behavioral, experiential and performance tests. As an artificial intelligence solution, ZOE is designed to continue learning and developing her responses based on real guest interactions.
While ZOE acts as a 24/7 virtual personal cruise assistant, she is not designed to replace human interaction between crew and guest, but rather to provide guests with the flexibility to communicate and discover information from the comfort of their staterooms.
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