Artificial Intelligence on Cruise Ships of the Future

Emerging technology on cruise ships

When it comes to future technology in the travel industry, cruise lines have long been ahead of the game.  Even before the global pandemic began in March 2020, cruise lines were looking at introducing emerging technology.  However, the Covid-19 pandemic has acted as a catalyst to cause the industry to speed up the process and improve the passenger experience, especially in relation to health protocols.

At the Passenger Ship BoardingTerminal

One of the first aspects of the use of future technology in improving the health of cruise passengers will be the use of touchless system technology. This will apply to such things as signing bills and scanning passports. The aim will be to avoid any direct human interaction.

Both Google and Apple are already developing “track-and-trace” apps that can alert crew to whether someone has been near an infected person.  Other systems will include purification and pathogen removal for the whole of the facility.

Onboard Changes on Cruise Ships

Passenger Ship embarkation will involve biometric identification and we are likely to see disinfection tunnels leading to the boarding terminal.  Already most major cruise lines offer online check-in which means that you can get your boarding pass over the phone. Almost certainly, thermal imaging cameras will be placed at entry points.

Some Cruise Lines already have on-board artificial intelligence systems similar to Amazon Alexa.  

MSC has an on-board voice-activated assistant named Zoe.  In future, on-board health protocols will be set up to include the use of touchless technology.  Phone apps will be downloaded to do such things as unlock the door as you approach, so guests won’t need to touch their cabin door handle.  

Every cabin will be fitted with AI-powered voice-activated information speakers. 

Passengers will use apps on their mobile phones to do many things. They will act as key-cards to open your cabin, to order and to pay for drinks, make bookings at restaurants, shows and the spa, and to book shore excursions. You will even be able to check your account, track your loved ones and control the lights and temperature in your cabin. This will avoid the use of shared touchscreens that cruise ships frequently use to sell tours and book activities.

Most cruise passengers are familiar with the daily newsletters and invitations that are slid under the door of the cabin. Such things, along with meal menus will become a thing of the past, to be replaced by digital emerging technology replacing all paper-based information and avoiding touching surfaces.  

Physical queueing will be limited by the use of virtual queueing apps to limit how many people will stand together in a certain area at a given time. This will avoid overcrowding at lunch buffets, in the fitness centre or at the pool.  Passengers will be able to order food and drinks and have them delivered to specified locations on board.

Robots on board Cruise Ships

Germ-zapping robots are already being used in hotels, restaurants and food processing facilities. These robots use broad-spectrum UV light to quickly decontaminate rooms and public spaces.  Similar robots will be able to autonomously enter cabins and sanitise the room after housekeeping staff have left. 

But what about the Personal Touch on Cruise Ships?

What cruise line operators are very conscious of is that one of the main reasons people take cruises is to enjoy the socialisation that is a major part of the experience and such innovations as physical distancing need to be carefully managed to preserve this important aspect of cruising.  

One key feature of the cruise ships of the future will be the social distancing protocol, as personal interaction with shipboard staff is very important in creating memorable experiences on cruise ships.

What Cruise Lines Are Doing With Next-Generation Cruise Technology

Read more about Artificial Intelligence into the future

The Consumer Electronics Show 2020 (CES 2020)


CES® Is the Global Stage for Innovation

CES is the world’s gathering place for all those who thrive on the business of consumer technologies. It has served as the proving ground for innovators and breakthrough technologies for 50 years — the global stage where next-generation innovations are introduced to the marketplace.

Owned and produced by the Consumer Technology Association (CTA)®, it attracts the world’s business leaders and pioneering thinkers.

Artificial Intelligence & Robotics

Artificial intelligence and robotics are changing the way we do business.

At CES 2020 you can see the latest developments in artificial intelligence and the next generation of intelligent, autonomous machines.

Will Robots Replace Human Jobs?

Jobs at risk

A new problem in the brave new world of robots.

Business owners are in a race to replace their workers as quickly as possible in order to avoid being overtaken by their competitors. However, the flip side of this is that workers are not impressed and not really excited about the prospect of their jobs being taken over by robots.  One expert predicts that 40% of all current jobs will be replaced within 15 years by robots controlled by artificial intelligence.

Robot Resistance

It seems now that in some countries, robots are becoming unpopular, to the extent that some humans are resorting to violence against the robots themselves, rather than against their creators or the employers who introduced them to the work place.  Recently a robotic security guard was wrapped in a tarpaulin and covered with barbecue sauce . In Russia a teaching robot was bashed with a baseball bat.  It seems to be a world-wide phenomenon on our robot planet.
So why this strange new phenomenon?  It could be that we are coming to regard robots as creatures very similar to ourselves… after all, our human hearts can be seen simply as sophisticated pumps.  And our DNA can be described in a form similar to computer code.  Even our nervous system is like to the electrical wiring inside machines.  The similarities are many.

Robots v HumansWorking Robot

Does this mean that, in the future, a battle between humans and robots is inevitable?  Perhaps not.  One robot manufacturer has discovered that if robots are given a name, fellow workers are much less likely to attack them.  You can imagine a work place where a robot named “George” is introduced to the workers.  Mary, John and Alan will be happier to work with “him” and not resent the fact that one of their team has been replaced by a machine.  I imagine that lunch breaks and morning tea breaks would be interesting for employee conversation and bonding!!

Will robots reduce human employment?

So which professions can be challenged by the potential introduction of robots in the work place? Practically every profession practised by humans is now under threat by robots.  And this includes the most unlikely.  Robot chefs in restaurants are now a reality.
It seems that even journalism is under threat.  The Guardian has recently engaged a robot writer that has just written its first article!!  (I don’t know the name of this new robotic writer).
Even the medical and legal professions are under threat by artificial intelligence.
Here is a list of the 10 Jobs most likely to be taken over by robots..Construction workers

Could a robot do your job?

How likely is it that a robot will take your job?




Self-Driving Cars

automatic guided vehicle

How soon will we see self-driving cars on the roads?

You may think that robotic self-driving cars are thing of science fiction. Not since 3D printing has a technology been so hyped up to imminently change our everyday lives.  But there is a lot of misunderstanding about artificial intelligence as it is employed in autonomous vehicles. In this article we look at how self-driving cars work and how they’re going to change the future of transportation.

Riley Wynn from Digital Trends says that despite all the developments in the technology, people are still scared of them.  Fear stems from a lack of understanding, so here is how self-driving cars work and how they will change the future of transportation.

One common misunderstanding is about what is a self-driving car.

Many of us at presently already own what can be classed as a low-level autonomous vehicle.  We take for granted such features as cruise control and ABS braking but these systems are autonomous in their own right.

In fact, autonomous vehicles have been classified into five categories, on a scale of increasing complexity.

Uber Self-driving vehicle

Category Levels of Autonomous Vehicles…

Level 0  All major systems are controlled by humans.  (The car you learnt to drive in)

Level 1  Certain systems such as cruise control and ABS are controlled by the car.  (Most modern vehicles on the road)

Level 2  At least two simultaneous automated functions like acceleration and steering but still has human override capability.

Level 3  The car commands all safety-critical functions under certain conditions but the driver is expected to take over when alerted.

Level 4  The car is fully autonomous in some scenarios but not all.

Level 5  The car is capable of self-driving in every situation.

Currently there are no technology companies that can offer a Level 5 fully autonomous car that will cope with any conditions on any road with no human overseer.

What robotic technologies are used to drive autonomous cars?

The main technologies employed in self driving cars are…

Radar sensors


Internal GPS

Laser range finders

Sophisticated software

Lidar sensors
Lidar is a method that measures distance to a target by illuminating the target with pulsed laser light and measuring the reflected pulses with a sensor. Differences in laser return times and wavelengths can then be used to make digital 3-D representations of the target. [Wikipedia]

How do self-driving vehicles work?

The lidar and the radar sensors feed information about the surrounds of the car to the central ai computer, which also gets information from the vehicle’s GPS (Global Positioning System) to precisely locate the vehicle in relation to other vehicles and objects.

The on-board cameras then step in to create a visual picture of what is around, to match the data points provided by the other technology.  This provides the ai central computer with information about anything that may be in the road, such as pedestrians or cyclists.

Self-driving vehicles are designed to make intelligent decisions on the best way to navigate around obstacles.  The ai computer aggregates all the received data from the sensors and then sends the information to the actuators in the car that control the braking, the throttle and the steering.  This is where the vehicle becomes robotically controlled. All these processes are repeated many times per second, in real time, to maintain control of the vehicle.  The robotic system replicates all the processes that a driver performs when behind the wheel and the eventual goal is that they will do it better than we humans can.

Who is building self-driving vehicles?

Waymo self-driving car
Several big-name companies are in the race to get autonomous vehicles on the road.  Companies like Apple, Google (Waymo) and Tesla and Uber.  Uber expects to have autonomous Volvos on the road by 2020 but has stated that there will always be a human on board to rescue the AI in case of an emergency.  Companies like Apple are focussing on shuttles and ride-sharing vehicles.

Delivery giants like Amazon, Fedex and UPS are looking at how they could take the driver out of truck driver.  Self-driving deliveries of packages could be the forerunner to self-driving vehicles for human passengers.

Level 5 autonomous vehicles on the roads are still a long way off but robotic vehicles for deliveries and shuttles could be just around the corner (literally).

Fear of autonomous vehicles

Nevertheless, many people are still worried about the safety issues with self-driving cars.

Let us know in the comments below if you would ride in or own a self-driving car.

Read more about AI

Australia’s first ever retail store staffed by robots

humanoid robot

An ice-cream parlour at Melbourne’s federation square is staffed by three robots.

The robots are named Pepper, Eka and Tony.  Tony has two arms and a screen that appears as a “face”.  A team of ABB engineers worked to bring into reality a new retail experience for customers.

Robot serverThe process is simple.  It all starts with a touch screen.  The customer selects the number of scoops, chooses the flavours and toppings and the robots do the rest.

It’s just another example of robots serving up convenience.  Automation in the retail sector is nothing new.  E-commerce giant Amazon has been using robots to help with workflow for quite some time.  A “smart home” in Zurich was built mostly using 3D printers and robots.

So, should we be worried about robots eventually stealing our jobs?

A 2019 survey by recruitment agency Hays, found that 18% of Aussie workers have already had their job impacted significantly by robots, with their duties changing or their role becoming redundant.  Another 32% said their role had been impacted partially, with some tasks automated.

Adam Gregory from Linked-In says that automation and the ability to work with robots actually presents a huge opportunitiy for employers and employees… “Robots can take on the most mundane tasks, freeing up the workforce to do more creative and more complex work.  In fact, in industries like manufacturing, robots can take on the more high-risk tasks, thus providing a safer work environment.”

But in the future, it will be the robot’s biggest weakness that will be our biggest selling point… “soft skills” like communication, influence and problem solving.  Adam says that “In fact, 91%of HR professionals indicate that these “soft skills” will be the most in demand skills in the future”.

The company, Niska, is looking to extend robotic servers into other areas of retail.

Delivery Robots are on the Move

Delivery Robot

Entrepreneur Ahti Heinla had been working with robots and also building them in his spare time when he responded to a request from NASA to help develop an autonomous rough-terrain robot to find and retrieve rock samples on Mars.  The proposal that he submitted to NASA was not successful but he and colleague Janus Friis then came up with the idea of using robots to make deliveries in suburban areas.

Delivery RobotToday, their company, Starship Technologies, has offices around the world and its delivery robots have travelled over 200,000 miles delivering over 50,000 orders in many neighbourhoods and on university campuses.  At George Mason University, its fleet of 25 robots makes it the largest robot food delivery service on a university campus.

Cost Saving Deliveries

The idea for the robot delivery service developed from the insight that 95% of the things that people order online are small enough to be delivered by a small robot at lower cost than that which delivery companies typically incur in the last few miles of a journey.
Delivery robots use similar technology to that found in autonomous cars, such as cameras, ultrasonics and GPS guidance.  But they are not totally autonomous.  The robots are able to put in a call to a human operator for assistance if a problem arises.  The human operator may be overseeing over 100 robots at any time.  The operator may not even be in the same country but can watch every delivery.

So how have pedestrians reacted to small robots trundling along sidewalks in amongst the human walkers?

When Starship rolled out their first robots to test them in action, at first people would stop and take photos but after seeing a few of them, most would lose interest and accepted them as part of the urban environment.  Pedestrians do not seem to find them intrusive or a hindrance to them going about their normal business.
It appears that sidewalk robots, far from being robot toys, could be here to stay.

And what about self-driving vehicles for deliveries?

Apollo 11 Lunar Mission

The Apollo 11 Lunar Module

My Recollections of The Apollo 11 Moon Landing and Moon Walk

Perhaps the most watched television event of the twentieth century happened on Monday 21st July 1969 at 12:56 pm (Australian Time).

It was one of the few times in life when you clearly remember where you were at the time.

I was in our lounge room with Chris, who was my girlfriend at the time, along with other family members, and I well remember that day.

Apollo 11 launched from Cape Kennedy on July 16, 1969, carrying Commander Neil Armstrong, Command Module Pilot Michael Collins and Lunar Module Pilot Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin into an Earth-orbit of 116 miles.

As the Lunar Module approached the surface of the moon, an estimated 650 million people watched Armstrong’s televised image and heard his voice describe the event.

The Lunar Landing

We, along with the other 650 million people on earth, were holding our collective breath as Astronaut Neil Armstrong uttered those memorable words “The Eagle has landed!”.  I clearly recall the excitement and tension in our lounge room as we watched, our eyes glued to the small black-and-white television picture.

But the excitement and relief were echoed around the world as well.  The Mission Controller in Houston radioed back to Armstrong that there were “a bunch of guys there, about to turn blue”.  (Ten years later, on a guided tour of Houston in 1979, I had the pleasure of seeing that same control room).

Then just a few minutes later, we heard Armstrong’s words, transmitted from 384,000 kilometers away; “That’s one small step for a man… one giant leap for mankind”.

Capturing the television signal

During those few minutes, the operators in the control centre in Houston Texas were attempting to capture and send out to the world, the clearest possible picture of Neil Armstrong’s descent down the ladder of the lunar module.  Neil Armstrong was waiting on the ladder for the go-ahead to step down into the fine dust on the lunar surface.  Astronaut Buzz Aldrin was waiting inside the lunar lander while Mike Collins was nervously listening and watching in the orbiting Command Module.

At the time, I was studying Communication Engineering at Melbourne’s RMIT and was particularly interested in the role Australia was playing in the relaying of the telemetry and television signals to Houston control.

Houston was having trouble capturing clear video of the event until eventually we heard the words “Switching video to Honeysuckle”.  The space monitoring station at Honeysuckle Creek in Australia had managed to receive a much better picture and this was then relayed to the watching world for the remainder of the broadcast.

NASA Moon Landing Audio Recordings

In this video we have a fascinating recording of the voice communications between the moon and the earth, as the astronauts set about bringing the vehicle safely down to the surface of the moon.  The video contains voice recordings of the Astronauts on board the Lunar Module (The Eagle) as it makes its powered descent to the surface of the moon. It also shows simultaneous video recording of the surface of the moon, taken from inside the lunar module.

Neil Armstrong on the Moon
Neil Armstrong on the Moon

The creators of this video stated that…

“Our goal is to capture a moment in history so that generations may now relive the events with this interactive educational resource. The world remembers the moon landing as a major historical event but often fails to recognize the scale of the mission. This interactive resource aims to educate visitors while engaging them with the excitement of manned-spaceflight to build a passion for scientific exploration”.

Australia’s Role in the Apollo 11 Mission

If you have watched the movie “The Dish” you will know of the role played in the Apollo 11 mission by the Australian tracking station at Parkes in New South Wales.  Not many people however are aware of the vital role played by the other Australian tracking station at Honeysuckle Creek.

The Honeysuckle Creek Tracking Station also kept recordings of the event …

This 8 minute video from Honeysuckle Creek tracking station records the event from the perspective of the Australians involved in the Space Program at the time.

“Houston, we have a problem”

Forty years after the event, a television documentary was produced, called “One Small Step” – 2009.  You can watch this movie for a distinctly Australian perspective of this momentous event.  See how the communication link almost didn’t happen.  See the reactions of those involved when Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon and of ordinary Australians actually watching, in real time “one of mankind’s biggest achievements”.

Apollo 11 50 year anniversary 2018
Man on the Moon

The 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing

The incredible event was celebrated this month on 21st 2019.

Return to Cape Kennedy

On July 16th 2019 at 0915 US Eastern Daylight Time, the Apollo 11 Astronaut Michael Collins returned to the historic launch pad (Pad39A) where Apollo 11 began its mission 50 years ago.

He spoke with with Kennedy Centre Director Bob Cabana.  The session was followed by a visit to the Launch Control Centre and Firing Room to meet up with Apollo era launch controllers.

The event was aired live on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

NASA celebrated the 50th anniversary of the historic Apollo 11 Moon mission and now looks to the future of exploration on the Moon and Mars with a live, two-hour television broadcast.

Ron Sheldon – 2019

Robots at the CES

robots in retail

Walker the Robotic Assistant

Robots starred at the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas

The CES is a gadget-lovers’ paradise and offers consumers a glimpse of the future.  CES is owned and produced by the Consumer Technology Association (CTA).  The show attracts the world’s business leaders and pioneering thinkers.

Robots were winning over visitors to the show.

CES 2019 was held from January 8 to 11 and with more than 4,400 exhibitors and over 1,000 start-ups, there was something new lurking around every corner… including Personal Robot Assistants.   Yes, the time has come to have your own personal robot assistant! 

What can Robots do?

Many new robots now have advanced capabilities.  There was even a robot at the show that can fold your laundry for you!

A Robot named “Walker” can become part of your family with its own personality, thanks to the sophistication of Artificial Intelligence (AI).  Walker will even bribe you with snacks!

Robotic Assistant
Robotic Assistant

Robots in Space

Robot rover on Mars

Robots of the future

Robots have been working in space now for many years but advancements in artificial intelligence mean that much more complex tasks can be performed in exploring other planets and their moons.  Robots of the future will be able to help establish a base on the moon and even assist with manned missions to Mars.

Chart of Earth, Moon and Mars missions in NASA's Lunar Exploration Campaign
Credits: NASA

Robot rover on MarsMoon Base