Carnival Medallion Cruises Now Overlay Personalized Avatars

Sleek and gleaming white, the Caribbean Princess cruise ship appears to be like 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 a whole digital overhaul over the previous yr, and its been outfitted with some first-of-its-kind expertise that may quickly be rolled out throughout the corporate’s total fleet of Medallion-class ships.

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Carnival Corporation, proprietor of the high-end cruise line finest identified amongst (and frequented by) the older era of passengers who keep in mind the model from the hit ’80s TV present The Love Boat, has outfitted all the Caribbean Princess cruise ship with sensors, 4K touchscreens, and different related gadgets to help 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 hundreds of sensors constructed into the setting, and the Tagalong seems on close by screens because the passenger walks round.


At the guts 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 individual’s knowledge saved within the cloud, from their picture to their room quantity to their passport info. Each Medallion can be related to a digital avatar, which Carnival developed within the Unity 3D recreation engine after teaming up with recreation builders from throughout the trade. These avatars stay inside attain because the visitor strikes across the ship, showing on close by screens and on the passengers’ cellular gadgets. This omnipresence has led to their cute title: Tagalongs.

While the information on every wearable permits for faster check-ins and boarding—plus the flexibility to order drinks from anyplace on the ship—it additionally allows 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 all the vessel. As WIRED reported when the Medallion expertise 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 whole fleet of Princess cruise ships has been retrofitted with the expertise wanted to trace every of the three,000-plus company as they transfer across the boat.

“We’re recognizing a visitor in area (on the ship) via a real-time avatar that lives persistently all through 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 thought. “The Tagalong is the last word manifestation of our capabilities,” he says.

In addition to the 72 miles of cables laid all through every ship, every vessel within the fleet incorporates 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 may 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, however as soon as aboard any of the luxurious 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 may be seen swimming contained in the digital underwater world.

One would not even must 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 presently out there—a sea turtle, a seahorse, and an angelfish—by selecting colours, designs, and tattoos for his or her our bodies and fins. (More Tagalongs might be launched sooner or later. In truth, Seth Mendelsohn, design director at recreation developer Epic Reach, which is a part of the event group, mentioned a couple of dozen Tagalongs have been created through the analysis and improvement stage. The unique was a jellyfish, however that creature wasn’t energetic sufficient. Mendelsohn mentioned the group needed 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, the place it may be rotated in 3D or tapped twice for a bubbly underwater sneeze. This can 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 thought is anybody can faucet on another passenger’s charms to register a “love”. Every time a attraction collects 100 love faucets, that visitor unlocks an extra attraction they will customise. Padgett says this presents an instantaneous approach for hundreds 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 large portal screens additionally home 5 videogames. In addition to informal video games like trivia, a phrase jumble, an identical recreation, there’s additionally an interactive scavenger hunt known as Ocean Treks Adventure (this additionally ties right into a TV collection Carnival produces with Jeff Corwin). When company 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 best experiences on the PlayOcean app is named Games Under the Stars, an occasion which takes place at designated instances all through the cruise itinerary up on the Lido deck, the prime out of doors pool deck. The videogame motion performs out on the 300-square-foot 4K display, 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 recreation utilizing the PlayOcean app from their cellular machine, coming 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 velocity of every Tagalong is set by timed button-mashing. Players on their very own cell phones to attempt to faucet out the right 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 presents dwell commentary of the race for the spectators watching the motion on the enormous display.

A separate Ocean Casino cellular app that options video games like poker, slots, roulette, and bingo may be performed on or off the ship. These video games are additionally out there on devoted 4K touchscreens through the cruise. One of the most recent PlayOcean experiences, presently 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 company obtain a digital poker card for every drink bought. Once they’ve collected sufficient playing cards to type a poker hand, they will play that hand in opposition to different passengers.

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

“Typically on the ship, we replace builds late at night time when most passengers are asleep after which take a look at to ensure they work correctly,” says Sean Kennedy, producer at Pipeworks Software and a member of Padgett’s group. “The wonderful thing about being on-ship is that we will instantly see the way in which individuals react to design adjustments. If you see somebody simply standing in entrance of and never touching the show, that is a sign that we have not made it intuitive sufficient or drawn their consideration to what they will do.”

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

Age of Content

The total PlayOcean platform has been designed to enchantment to company of any age, although many of the cruise’s company are older. One cause Padgett selected to debut this expertise 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 % of passengers to this point have opted to make use of the digitally tagged Medallion. Passengers are given a alternative of utilizing the wearable or a standard hotel-style key card. The avatars are assigned routinely, and in line with Padgett, 25 % of passengers choose to customise and work together with their Tagalong. That’s with restricted pre-cruise consciousness or publicity, because the expertise remains to be being fine-tuned aboard the ships.

“The visitor we’re presently participating with have been pleased with their cruise expertise and doubtless weren’t ravenous for all of those new enhancements,” Padgett says. “But now that they’ve them, they suppose it is incredible.”

Another cause 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 totally different videogames and different interactions work based mostly off suggestions from passengers. Also, Kennedy says, older company usually do not flip to social media to vent frustrations about glitches in video games.

Future Cruise

This total venture happened as a result of Padgett has watched as gaming has develop into part of on a regular basis life for vacationers of all ages. And avatars have develop into synonymous with gaming, and gaming communities. His group of builders was hand-picked from throughout the trade to work along with different conventional cruise trade 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 top of 2019. Padgett says 9 ships are already retrofitted with the bottom expertise and all the Medallion class fleet might be operational by 2020.

The degree of interactions will evolve over time, in line with 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 gadgets (telephones and tablets) that passengers carry on board.

“We view that anybody of those portals is a chance for company to cross the digital and actual plateaus,” Padgett mentioned.

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

“For enjoyable and selection we did exaggerate on the colours and patterns, however typically they do not look too removed from what you would possibly see within the wild,” Mendelsohn defined.

More is on the desk for the long run.

“We might go within the route of the outdated Nintendo Miis or emojis and create avatars that seem like cartoon variations of every actual passenger,” Padgett defined. “Our Tagalongs might even be self-generating as a result of now we have your passport pictures and we will observe your motions on the ship. A key a part of all of that is permitting company who choose into the Medallion service to customise 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, individuals might really get to know one another via their avatars, which is a typical incidence inside the videogame neighborhood.

Set Sail

Moving ahead, the PlayOcean platform might be reaching into visitor houses by way of the OceanView streaming participant, which already performs on cellular gadgets and might be launched throughout OTT platforms like Apple TV, Roku, Chromecast, Amazon Fire, and Pluto. This offers the corporate a chance to have interaction with shoppers lengthy earlier than or after they have been on a ship (one thing cruisers usually 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 gadgets right now.

“The world of expertise is an enormous place and contains media and retail and all of these items competing in your experiential time,” Padgett says. “We should leverage the engagement on the stage expertise and likewise leverage the digital platform. If you are not engaged together with your visitor a couple of week out of a yr or two, it is exhausting to get loyalty and dedication to your model.”

The total cruise ship trade accounts for under two % of the worldwide lodge rooms out there, which presents a really small pattern measurement 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 doubtlessly youthful) demographic to the model, whereas rising engagement for many who already voyage on the ships. And whereas the Princess model is the primary to deploy this expertise, Padgett mentioned different manufacturers like Carnival Cruise Line and Seaborne are each potential subsequent steps for this expertise. 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 information collected on what passengers are literally participating 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’ll stay simply as straightforward to order a type of unique cocktails.

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