Carnival Medallion Cruises Now Overlay Personalized Avatars

Sleek and gleaming white, the Caribbean Princess cruise ship seems to be like another large floating metal metropolis at sea. But there’s one thing particular about this 951-foot lengthy vessel. The Caribbean Princess has quietly undergone an entire digital overhaul over the previous 12 months, and its been outfitted with some first-of-its-kind know-how that can quickly be rolled out throughout the corporate’s whole fleet of Medallion-class ships.

Carnival Corporation, proprietor of the high-end cruise line finest identified amongst (and frequented by) the older technology of passengers who bear in mind the model from the hit ’80s TV present The Love Boat, has outfitted your complete Caribbean Princess cruise ship with sensors, 4K touchscreens, and different related units to assist a brand new interactive platform known as PlayOcean.

Cruise ship passengers can work together with their very own customizable 3D avatar, known as a Tagalong, that is related to the wearable Medallion on their wrist. The passenger’s location on the ship is tracked utilizing 1000’s of sensors constructed into the surroundings, and the Tagalong seems on close by screens because the passenger walks round.


At the center of this persistent digital layer is a Medallion, a poker-chip-sized token that is worn across the neck or on the wrist. Every passenger will get one; every Medallion has not solely the passenger’s title bodily engraved on it, however it additionally syncs as much as all of that particular person’s information saved within the cloud, from their photograph to their room quantity to their passport info. Each Medallion can also be related to a digital avatar, which Carnival developed within the Unity 3D sport engine after teaming up with sport builders from throughout the business. These avatars stay inside attain because the visitor strikes across the ship, showing on close by screens and on the passengers’ cellular units. This omnipresence has led to their cute title: Tagalongs.

While the info on every wearable permits for faster check-ins and boarding—plus the flexibility to order drinks from anyplace on the ship—it additionally permits a direct connection between the digital and bodily worlds whereas at sea.

Social Ocean

The Medallion platform requires constant and robust web connectivity and a very related ecosystem that spans your complete vessel. As WIRED reported when the Medallion know-how was first unveiled at CES 2017, the system makes use of 7,000 sensors wired into the ceilings of the ships’ 19 decks. Since that preliminary announcement, a complete fleet of Princess cruise ships has been retrofitted with the know-how wanted to trace every of the three,000-plus friends as they transfer across the boat.

“We’re recognizing a guest in space (on the ship) through a real-time avatar that lives persistently throughout the ship,” says John Padgett, chief expertise and innovation officer at Carnival Corp. Padgett is among the minds behind Disney’s MagicBand, the same system that makes use of uniquely tagged digital wristbands to take the effort out of vacationing at Disney resorts. Now with Carnival, Padgett is increasing the horizons of the concept. “The Tagalong is the ultimate manifestation of our capabilities,” he says.

In addition to the 72 miles of cables laid all through every ship, every vessel within the fleet encompasses a broadband hotspot in each cabin. The ship itself connects to the web via a mixture of SES Networks’ constellation of geostationary close to satellites and O3B medium Earth orbit (MEO) satellites to offer a 2.25-Gbps connection.

The Tagalongs will be accessed on a cellular app earlier than, throughout, and after a trip.


A passenger’s Tagalong not solely lives on their smartphone or pill display screen, however as soon as aboard any of the posh Medallion-class ships, the avatars come alive. As a visitor passes by any of the 4K touchscreens strategically positioned close to the elevators and alongside the hallways, their Tagalong will be seen swimming contained in the digital underwater world.

One does not even have to enterprise onto a cruise ship to work together with these Tagalongs. The PlayOcean cellular app permits anybody to decide on and customise one of many three Tagalongs at the moment obtainable—a sea turtle, a seahorse, and an angelfish—by selecting colours, designs, and tattoos for his or her our bodies and fins. (More Tagalongs can be launched sooner or later. In truth, Seth Mendelsohn, design director at sport developer Epic Reach, which is a part of the event workforce, mentioned a few dozen Tagalongs had been created through the analysis and growth stage. The authentic was a jellyfish, however that creature wasn’t vigorous sufficient. Mendelsohn mentioned the workforce wished one thing that was practical and never anthropomorphic with this primary trio of avatars.)

Tap the avatar and it involves the middle of the display screen, the place it may be rotated in 3D or tapped twice for a bubbly underwater sneeze. This can also be the place the visitor or different passengers can faucet on any of the three charms that show customizable traits like Anniversary, Birthday, Happy, Gamer, and Adventurer beneath the Tagalong. The concept is anybody can faucet on another passenger’s charms to register a “love”. Every time a attraction collects 100 love faucets, that visitor unlocks a further attraction they will customise. Padgett says this gives an instantaneous method for 1000’s of strangers dwelling collectively on a floating metropolis to attach and work together.

Game On

Along with the Tagalongs you may faucet on, the ship’s big portal screens additionally home 5 videogames. In addition to informal video games like trivia, a phrase jumble, an identical sport, there’s additionally an interactive scavenger hunt known as Ocean Treks Adventure (this additionally ties right into a TV sequence Carnival produces with Jeff Corwin). When friends open any of those video games, their Tagalong swims round within the background. The video games have been designed by builders from studios like PipeWorks, Epic Reach and Heavy Iron Studios who beforehand labored on console video games like Disney Infinity, Tak and the Power of JuJu, Terraria, The Simpsons: Tapped Out, and the Saints Row franchise.


The WIRED Guide to Emoji

One of the good experiences on the PlayOcean app is named Games Under the Stars, an occasion which takes place at designated occasions all through the cruise itinerary up on the Lido deck, the prime outside pool deck. The videogame motion performs out on the 300-square-foot 4K display screen, the point of interest of two open solar decks with lounge chairs additionally used for night film screenings. Up to eight gamers can log into the Tagalong Sprint sport utilizing the PlayOcean app from their cellular gadget, getting into their customized Tagalong right into a three-lap underwater 3D race. While the digital race happens on invisible rails and no person must steer, the pace of every Tagalong is set by timed button-mashing. Players on their very own cellphones to attempt to faucet out the proper rhythm on the onscreen left and proper arrows to propel their Tagalong to the entrance of the race. A member of the Princess leisure crew gives stay commentary of the race for the spectators watching the motion on the enormous display screen.

A separate Ocean Casino cellular app that options video games like poker, slots, roulette, and bingo will be performed on or off the ship. These video games are additionally obtainable on devoted 4K touchscreens through the cruise. One of the latest PlayOcean experiences, at the moment in beta testing, is an interactive poker run known as Good Spirits Card Hunt. It’s basically an on-ship real-world bar crawl that includes specialty worldwide cocktails, the place friends obtain a digital poker card for every drink bought. Once they’ve collected sufficient playing cards to kind a poker hand, they will play that hand towards different passengers.

Small groups of builders have spent 1000’s of man-hours over the previous 12 months play-testing and offering high quality assurance for each the OceanPlay platform and the person video games and experiences.

“Typically on the ship, we update builds late at night when most passengers are asleep and then test to make sure they work properly,” says Sean Kennedy, producer at Pipeworks Software and a member of Padgett’s workforce. “The great thing about being on-ship is that we can immediately see the way people react to design changes. If you see someone just standing in front of and not touching the display, that’s an indication that we haven’t made it intuitive enough or drawn their attention to what they can do.”

Game developer Marc Rodriguez, who’s in command of high quality assurance on the challenge, mentioned the primary problem is making an attempt to remain underneath the radar in order to not disturb friends’ holidays. On the flipside, when the workforce has to check in public, passengers ask in regards to the video games and avatars and find yourself studying extra in regards to the initiatives on show.

Age of Content

The whole PlayOcean platform has been designed to attraction to friends of any age, though many of the cruise’s friends are older. One purpose Padgett selected to debut this know-how aboard ships populated largely by passengers over 50 is to show out the effectiveness of those video games and avatars amongst adults. According to Padgett, 99.5 p.c of passengers up to now have opted to make use of the digitally tagged Medallion. Passengers are given a selection of utilizing the wearable or a standard hotel-style key card. The avatars are assigned routinely, and in response to Padgett, 25 p.c of passengers decide to customise and work together with their Tagalong. That’s with restricted pre-cruise consciousness or publicity, because the know-how remains to be being fine-tuned aboard the ships.

“The guest we’re currently engaging with were happy with their cruise experience and probably weren’t ravenous for all of these new enhancements,” Padgett says. “But now that they have them, they think it’s fantastic.”

Another purpose for concentrating on this older Princess demographic was to permit the sport builders to QA take a look at aboard the ship, altering the way in which the completely different videogames and different interactions work based mostly off suggestions from passengers. Also, Kennedy says, older friends sometimes do not flip to social media to vent frustrations about glitches in video games.

Future Cruise

This whole challenge happened as a result of Padgett has watched as gaming has turn out to be part of on a regular basis life for vacationers of all ages. And avatars have turn out to be synonymous with gaming, and gaming communities. His workforce of builders was hand-picked from throughout the business to work along with different conventional cruise business professionals in making a holistic expertise.

The platform will launch to Regal Princess in February 2019 and throughout a complete of 5 ships by the tip of 2019. Padgett says 9 ships are already retrofitted with the bottom know-how and your complete Medallion class fleet can be operational by 2020.

The degree of interactions will evolve over time, in response to Padgett. Any given ship introduces many further digital touchpoints for avatar interactions, together with 2,000 4K contact screens in every cabin, 1,700 door portals, and the three,000 cellular units (telephones and tablets) that passengers deliver on board.

“We view that any one of these portals is an opportunity for guests to cross the digital and real plateaus,” Padgett mentioned.

The very idea of those avatars can even increase. The growth workforce has created over a dozen avatars, together with themed characters like bears for Alaskan cruises. Menelsohn mentioned finally as a result of ships go to actual areas, the workforce wished the Tagalongs to really feel pure and at house in those self same areas.

“For fun and variety we did exaggerate on the colors and patterns, but in general they don’t look too far from what you might see in the wild,” Mendelsohn defined.

More is on the desk for the long run.

“We could go in the direction of the old Nintendo Miis or emojis and create avatars that look like cartoon versions of each real passenger,” Padgett defined. “Our Tagalongs could even be self-generating because we have your passport photos and we can track your motions on the ship. A key part of all of this is allowing guests who opt into the Medallion service to customize their avatars as they like.”

Padgett believes frequent cruisers might get behind the avatar ideas, sharing their creations on widespread neighborhood websites like And over time, folks might truly get to know one another via their avatars, which is a typical incidence inside the videogame neighborhood.

Set Sail

Moving ahead, the PlayOcean platform can be reaching into visitor houses through the OceanView streaming participant, which already performs on cellular units and can be launched throughout OTT platforms like Apple TV, Roku, Chromecast, Amazon Fire, and Pluto. This provides the corporate a chance to interact with shoppers lengthy earlier than or after they have been on a ship (one thing cruisers sometimes solely do as soon as yearly or each few years). That OTT angle opens up the flexibility for Tagalongs to swim onto TV screensavers, simply as they float throughout cellular units at present.

“The world of experience is a big place and includes media and retail and all of these things competing for your experiential time,” Padgett says. “We must leverage the engagement on the stage experience and also leverage the digital platform. If you’re not engaged with your guest more than one week out of a year or two, it’s hard to get loyalty and commitment to your brand.”

The whole cruise ship business accounts for less than two p.c of the worldwide lodge rooms obtainable, which gives a really small pattern dimension when limiting an expertise to a single cruise. Padgett believes opening the Princess Cruise line model to the a lot bigger digital area will introduce a brand new (and probably youthful) demographic to the model, whereas rising engagement for individuals who already voyage on the ships. And whereas the Princess model is the primary to deploy this know-how, Padgett mentioned different manufacturers like Carnival Cruise Line and Seaborne are each potential subsequent steps for this know-how. An official determination on which model will get the digital improve subsequent hasn’t been finalized but.

And trying even additional into the horizon, Padgett believes the very design of future cruise ships might evolve based mostly on each the suggestions from these retrofitted ships and the info collected on what passengers are literally partaking with on board. The Tagalongs themselves could possibly be extra instantly developed into the shipboard experiences, going past the present community of touchscreens. Hopefully it should stay simply as straightforward to order a kind of unique cocktails.

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