Jan 4, 2010

Thoughts about technology on a cruise ship, and other reflections...

It is January 4 2010, and I am enjoying my Caribbean cruise trip. 

I’m a little disappointed that technology on cruise ships has not moved forward as I’d hoped over the past few years.   On my ship, which is less than three years old,  Wi Fi is available in each stateroom, in addition to the common areas.  This is a good thing, but it is very expensive.  The pay-as-you-go rate is 75 cents a minute!   If you have a 3G iPhone or Smartphone, you’ll have to pay outrageously high fees to connect to the internet from the ship’s connection, I’m told.

I was pleasantly surprised by some of the digital displays on the ship, especially the “show-reel” of the beautiful destination points and exciting activities that everyone looks forward to when going on a cruise.  I was also impressed with the digital touch-screen poker table in the casino, even if I don't play poker.

I even liked some of the digital signage that were basically slide show posters of nice vacation pictures.

My biggest disappointments?  
  • The  large touch-screen flat-panel display that served as an interactive shore excursion kiosk.  It was tucked away in a poor location, and it didn’t make any sense!
  • The interactive TV experience, specifically the the shore excursion selection process.  This experience made me hate TV remote controls more than ever!
  • The cruise ship wayfinding system.   Arrrggghh.
I will devote at least one blog post to each of the above disappointments when I’m done editing the video.

I guess I shouldn’t have had such high technological expectations for my trip.  I’m on a Carnival cruise ship, and I know that the line is owned by the same company that owns the Holland America ships. From previous cruises on Holland America ships, I know that they are more upscale than Carnival.    I guess I got too excited when I recently learned that a few Holland America ships provide cruise-goers with the magic experience of Microsoft Surface in their lounges, and also adopted the Windows 7 operating system.  On the Carnival Freedom, things aren’t quite so advanced. 

Why is this important to me?
  • I’m interested in studying how technology can facilitate collaboration, communication, information-gathering, and decision making in public spaces, and since I have plenty of cruise ship travel experience, cruse ship spaces.
  • I’d like to follow up on the work I did on a student project.  Three years ago, I did  a lot of people-watching during a cruise-ship vacation, which inspired the topic of my Human Computer Interaction team project during the semester after my trip. I took another cruise ship during that semester, which further informed my thinking about this topic.  Since then, I’ve been on 4 cruises.
  • I think that much of the information I obtain from my observations related to travel experiences, including cruise ships, can inform work in other related domains, such as shopping malls, museums, historical points of interest, libraries, airports, bus, railroad, and subway terminals, parks and squares, and so forth.  I also think this work can inform educational applications and simulations, such as 3D “Virtual Field Trip” games, following Universal Design for Learning principles.
I spent some of my time yesterday, our "day at sea", reading two books and jotting down some of my reflections from 1) and educational/universal design for learning perspective, and 2)  a ubiquitous computing/interactive displays in public spaces + collaborative perspective:
  • Acting With Technology: Activity Theory and Interaction Design (Victor Kaptelinin and Bonnie A. Nardi)
  • Thoughts on Interaction Design (Editor:  Jon Kolko)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The travel industry is dominated by the GDS systems and from an interactive and multimedia perspective it needs a makeover, but the service delivery, real time inventory management, and integration requirements make all this hard to manage.

Standardization and other efforts towards this (like the OTA initiatives) have not done too much over the years in terms of adoption to make such things work well.