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Meet Zoe - MSC Cruises' newest crew member

MSC Cruises introduces Zoe(L-R clockwise): at London's Gherkin; Zoe; MSC Bellissima arriving next month; Sanjay Dhawan, Hyesung Ha, Gianni Onorato and Luca Pronzati
MSC Cruises’ ceo Gianni Onorato introduced the company’s newest crew member, Zoe, to European media and travel partners at London’s landmark Gherkin building Thursday evening.

Zoe is MSC Cruises’ voice-enabled virtual personal cruise assistant, set to debut on the cruise line’s newest ship MSC Bellissima which will be named in Southampton on March 2.

Powered by AI

Developed in partnership with Harman, a wholly owned subsidiary of Samsung Electronics, and powered by artificial intelligence (AI), Zoe will be found in every cabin and can speak seven languages providing information, guidance and suggestions about onboard facilities, entertainment, services, or help to book a service.

An easy to use device – guests just say, ‘OK Zoe’, for activation, noted Onorato during last night’s demonstration where he had a conversation with Zoe in English, Italian, German, Spanish, French, Brazilian and Mandarin, ‘which represents 85% of languages spoken throughout the world.’

He added, ‘the advanced voice recognition feature makes it easy for everyone to control and access information using only voice commands,’ he added.

Zoe to feature on next three ships

Zoe will also feature on each new ship delivering after MSC Bellissima, including the upcoming MSC Grandiosa in 2019 and MSC Virtuosa in 2020.

Asked if the device could be fitted on existing tonnage Onorato confirmed in theory it could on any of the post Meraviglia-class ships but would have to be completed during a drydocking. Zoe as an extension of MSC for Me, the company’s digital innovation platform relies on 3,500 sensors fitted around the ship.

Onorato called Zoe ‘just the starting point in providing a connected guest experience and the use of technology at the service of hospitality.’

Responding to over 800 questions

Zoe 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. Testing was carried out on the conversation designs, Zoe’s natural speech recognition and ability to transform speech into text and back again, in addition to scores of other behavioural, experiential and performance tests. As an artificial intelligence solution, Zoe is designed to continue learning and developing her responses based on real guest interactions.

Any question that cannot be answered will be banked and added to Zoe building up a more comprehensive set of data.

For any interactive processes like booking a shorex or making a dining reservation Zoe will direct the guest to the Samsung in-cabin smart TV where they can make a booking or find out real time weather conditions or where the ship is located.

In collaboration with Harman and Samsung

The collaboration with Harman and Samsung 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.’

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-range 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 cabin.

Future applications

‘In the future, Zoe will be able to offer further personalisation and embedded experiences, and will also become a cross-channel personal assistant that will take on new forms within MSC for Me,’ added Luca Pronzati, chief business innovation officer for MSC Cruises.

Hyesung Ha, svp of enterprise product marketing group, Samsung Electronics who had flown to London from Korea for the reveal 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.’

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 cabins, noted Onorato.

He sees Zoe providing cross selling opportunities in the future and that a ‘luxury model’ would definitely feature on the company’s four new ultra-luxury 500-cabin ships it is working on with Fincantieri the first of which will arrive in spring 2023.