Lounging poolside in the middle of the Caribbean while a robot bartender prepares you neon colored quaffs certainly seems good for morale. While I’m not suggesting the modern workplace employ robots to prepare technicolored adult beverages, there is something to be gleaned from the cruise industry’s digital transformation.
A recent profile of Royal Caribbean’s tech filled cruise of the future highlighted the degree to which the cruise industry is seamlessly integrating technology to improve all aspects of the guest experience. While Royal Caribbean is hoping to entice travelers with flashy robot bartenders and immersive VR experiences, behind the scenes they’re striving to create a frictionless and intuitive technology-enabled environment that is flexible and simple to use for the widest range of users. This is where the workplace could take some cues.
AI-fueled interfaces, facial recognition, and streamlined boarding processes are meant to “give guests their first day of vacation back,” says Royal Caribbean CEO Richard Fain. Why not give back to employees the hours or days they spend each year searching for the appropriate conference room, troubleshooting glitch-filled videoconferences, and roaming the halls frantically searching for the meeting room they were supposed to be in five minutes ago? AI could be more seamlessly integrated into our scheduling systems to suggest the most appropriate meeting rooms and automatically shuffle reservations if competing meetings arise. The meeting room would know what you will need for your client presentation and have your slide deck and talking points loaded before you arrive. Before that meeting on the side of the building you rarely visit, your device would remind you and provide directions and travel time, while filling you in on who will be in attendance and what projects they’re assigned to. Facial recognition technologies would unlock the doors to the elevator lobby so you never again get locked out when you forget your key card in your rush to the restroom.
Taking cues from NASA, where they are trying to improve the lives of astronauts stuck in spaceships for extended periods of time, cruise ships are merging technology with the physical environment to create more immersive spaces and experiences. Digital installations are bringing the outside in and allowing guests in interior cabins to view live feeds of the ocean and the setting sun and piped sounds of water and birds. Why not mimic office lighting on actual outside conditions so employees can experience the changing conditions throughout the course of the day? Cool, bright light in the morning could give way to warmer hues at midday and pinker hues as dusk nears. Virgin Airlines is already employing this adaptive, “human-centered” lighting to alleviate jet lag and lift the moods of stressed travelers. Instead of elevator lobby walls clad in staid marble, why not floor to ceiling digital displays piping in the buskers from the street outside, the squirrels in the park across the street, or the CEO who is currently giving the keynote at an industry conference? Maybe you wouldn’t mind being stuck in the mail room all afternoon if the ceiling mirrored those menacing nimbus clouds rolling in from the north.
While there is probably no way to turn work into a Caribbean vacation, there are certainly ways to create thoughtful, immersive, technology-enabled experiences that make our days more frictionless, connect us with nature, and maybe instill a little fun into those seemingly endless minutes anxiously waiting for the elevator.