ZOE is billed as the world’s first virtual personal cruise assistant and we are told that it is poised to take MSC Cruises’ Guest Services to an exciting new level with guest-centric technology that will further enrich the cruise holiday.
Developed in partnership with HARMAN  and Samsung Electronics, ZOE is a voice-enabled ‘artificial intelligence’ found in every cabin that can speak seven languages. It is able to answer hundreds of questions about the cruise, and can ‘she’ can provide information about onboard services, offer suggestions, provide guidance or help to book a service.
It’s an easy to use device, guests just 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 with employing technology to enhance the guest experience. ZOE will launch on MSC Bellissima and will then be available on each new ship following this, including the upcoming MSC Grandiosa and MSC Virtuosa in 2020.
Gianni Onorato, MSC Cruises’ CEO told us “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 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.”
He 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 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.”
This new 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.
Sanjay Dhawan, President – Connected Services and CTO, HARMAN said “Today, customers have increasingly high expectations for connected experiences wherever they live, work – and now, travel. 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 modernise 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-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. 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.
ZOE has been designed to enrich the MSC for Me ecosystem and as such interacts with the in-cabin 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.
To ensure that 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. 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.
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.