The popular Japanese robot Pepper will be shipping out on Costa Cruises' Costa Diadema and AIDAprima starting in 2016.
Pepper is a child-sized robot designed to interact with humans, and while it will be the first instance of a robot working a cruise ship, it will not be a new idea for the hospitality industry. An English-speaking electronic dinosaur manned a hotel desk in Nagasaki earlier in the year, and Amsterdam's airport recently deployed a custom-made robot in an effort by Dutch airliner KLM to reduce missed flights.
Pepper was designed by a division of the Japan telecom provider SoftBank Mobile for use in retail sales environments. He can move and speak autonomously, and is designed to understand human facial expressions and emotions. He has been deployed in SoftBank's Japanese stores, and Nescafe has ordered 1,000 units to staff Japanese sales outlets for Nespresso coffee machines.
While he can make a joke, move about on wheels and look up the weather forecast, he cannot yet clean staterooms or move luggage.
He has been offered for sale to the general public for $1,600 plus fees; the first batch of 1,000 units sold out in under a minute.
A Costa Cruises spokesperson told media that Pepper is expected to join crews across the company's entire fleet by next summer.