Carnival Corporation kicks off CES 2017 with its first-ever press conference and booth. The world’s largest cruise company, which has 10 brands, is showcasing Ocean Medallion technology. The 1.8-ounce wearable disc, about the size of a quarter, will make the cruise experience more engaging for Princess Cruise passengers beginning this November aboard the Regal Princess. The first Medallion Class ship will be joined by the Caribbean Princess and Royal Princess in January 2018 and March 2018, respectively.

The Ocean Medallion is the brainchild of John Padgett, chief experience and innovation officer at Carnival Corp. Padgett has been developing this new seamless chip, which includes a proprietary real-time artificial intelligence genome to make recommendations for each passenger, since 2014. Padgett is the man who spearheaded Walt Disney Parks and Resorts’ MagicBand technology, which launched in 2013 and allows guests to use a single wearable to interact in Disney’s Orlando resorts and theme parks.

Padgett told [a]listdaily that he’s taking that Disney concept to another level, thanks to advances in new technology like Bluetooth and Near Field Communication (NFC). The Medallion blends that technology with a proprietary Internet of Things layer through the Ocean Compass, a digital experience portal that acts as an ocean concierge.

“Using a MagicBand or an iPhone to pay for something requires you to hold something up against the reader, but the Medallion never comes out of your pocket or purse,” Padgett said, discussing how the technology works. In addition to enabling guests to open and lock doors automatically, purchase merchandise, services, food, beverages and excursions without any swipes or taps, Carnival is creating an array of interactive gaming and other personalized entertainment experiences for the Medallion.

“Gamification is a big part of our strategy,” Padgett explained. “One of the original drivers behind the cruise industry was casinos. While casinos are still casinos, gaming is a much bigger space. We view casinos as a function of gaming. When you have a digital layer around everything, everything can be gamified.”

Guests can use the Medallion to access Ocean Play, which offers a variety of casual and social games that can be played anywhere, including the guest stateroom on a large TV. “You can play the same game or similar game from the casino on any mobile device,” Padgett said. “You can turn off the gambling component to any game, and even play non-gambling versions on shore at any time even when you’re not on a cruise.”

Carnival has developed a story-based game around a pirate king and queen conspiring to steal your virtual money. Games will be spread across all the different physical spaces of the ship. As part of being retrofitted for this new technology, 4,000 interactive portals will be installed on each of the ships to open up new ways to interact.

“We’ll have everything from 24/7 bingo with virtual bingo cards, to multiplayer social games, to avatar-based engagements,” Padgett said. “The ships will also offer a poker passport, where the Medallion will track engagement across different experiences on the ship will unlock digital cards on a guest’s Compass, and at end of the day, they can play that hand.”

Gaming also will connect with the new Tag Along program, which allows passengers to create a custom digital avatar that shows up in certain spaces on the ship like in glass, on atriums and in the stateroom, as well as on smartphones, tablets and PCs when on or off the ship.

“We’ve gamified the Medallion to show guests that there’s a digital dimension to the experience,” Padgett said. “That experience has been designed to live persistently across smart devices before, during and after the cruise. In addition to being able to access games on mobile devices any time, Carnival will offer guests access to its Ocean Network of original content.

Over time, the Medallion will expand even further beyond the ship, airport and cruise terminals. Padgett envisions that Carnival’s private islands will be equipped with interactive portals and later public ports of calls will interact with the wearable device. “I could see a Bejeweled-style mobile game where you have to go to physical retail jewelry locations on shore to see physical jewels that are then unlocked as part of the video game,” Padgett said. “Our location-based services are best in the world.”

The Medallion will essentially eliminate the points-based loyalty programs that many cruise lines, airlines, hotels and other travel industries utilize.

“The reason you collect all these points in today’s world is because there’s some experiential activity and because you’re loyal,” Padgett said. “We’re less about categories and more about a linear slope. The more you engage with the Medallion, the better your experience is. We don’t need to have an artificial reward.”