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MSC Cruises reveals development plans for digital concierge Zoe

Wed 17 Apr 2019 by Rebecca Moore

MSC Cruises reveals development plans for digital concierge Zoe
MSC Cruises' digital cabin assistant (pictured) contains 800 answers to customer questions and is programmed with seven languages

MSC Cruises has launched its artificial intelligence and machine learning-based cabin concierge Zoe – a first-of-its-kind for the cruise industry – and revealed plans for its development.

MSC Cruises chief executive Gianni Onorato told a conference session on innovation at Seatrade Cruise Global that Zoe was the “most exciting innovation we have launched”. The digital concierge has been launched on newly-delivered MSC Bellissima, in each of the 2,217 cabins. It will next be rolled out on MSC Grandiosa when it is delivered in November this year.

The digital cruise assistant was developed by the MSC innovation department along with experts from connected technology specialist Harman, part of Samsung Electronics.

Zoe is not linked to a cloud system, but to an onboard server as MSC Cruises “wants to ensure a very rapid connection independent from the satellite connection,” Mr Onorato said.

Mr Onorato said of Zoe, “It gives the opportunity to provide answers to customers’ questions. Zoe will start with 800 answers, but being an artificial intelligence product, it will learn by use.” Every time there are new questions and Zoe does not yet know the answers, they will go into the server to collect the answer. He said that the 800 questions were a “starting point”.

The system underwent extensive testing in areas such as speech recognition, ability to transform speech to text and vice versa, and other behavioural and performance tests. Mr Onorato pointed out that 400 people trained Zoe.

She will start with seven languages, but the aim is to boost this to 10, while 30 different accents from across the globe have been included after these were analysed during the testing period.

Zoe has been integrated into the MSC for Me digital platform, which was launched in 2017. It connects to bluetooth transmitters around the ship to provide passengers with tailored services and suggestions. As part of MSC for Me, if a customer wants to book an excursion, Zoe connects to the in-cabin television to provide the booking page on the screen.

Mr Onorato said customers can also connect Zoe to their mobile phone and bluetooth to play music.

The cruise operator is already looking to the future and considering ways of developing Zoe. Mr Onorato said "We are already planning what the future is for Zoe, to offer more and more personalised experiences using machine learning activity to satisfy [the customer] but this is obviously a long process.”

He added that the company will do “more and more” in terms of artificial intelligence, to create a more customised and more personalised service. He said “There will be expectations to create an internet of things.” He gave an example:  if there is a shore excursion at 9 am and the wake-up call has been set, the time will automatically be made later if there is a delay in the excursion.

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