The Costa Group will start deploying humanoid robots to serve passengers onboard its ships next year.
The cruise company has signed an exclusive agreement, worth more than EUR1 million (US$1.1m), with French company Aldebaran, for the use of its ‘Pepper’ robots.
Costa said it believes that Pepper, which is designed to read human emotions, “will improve guest experience and provide help and entertainment onboard the ships”.
“With an emotional robot onboard our cruise ships we are once again continuing our tradition of innovation. For us, this is an important step towards a digital future for our brands. I am confident that our guests will love Pepper,” said Michael Thamm, CEO of the Costa Group.
Launched in Japan in June 2014, Pepper is equipped with a “high-level interface” for communicating with humans, enabling it to analyse expressions and voice tones. Standing 120cm high and weighing 28kg, Pepper has 17 joints to simulate human movements, three wheels allowing it to move in any direction, and a 3D camera for detecting people. It also has a 10-inch touchscreen monitor.
The first batch of Peppers will be deployed on the AIDAprima and Costa Diadema cruise ships in spring 2016.
Fluent in German, Italian and English, they will be used to welcome guests and provide information and recommendations on restaurants, events and excursions. The roll-out will then be expanded to the rest of the Costa and AIDA fleets by summer 2016.
Costa noted that Pepper has already completed an “internship” onboard AIDAstella, and passed with “flying colours”.
This marks the second recent example of humanoid robots being employed in the travel industry; another droid named Spencer is currently being trialled at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport.