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Meet Alpha – bringing humanoid robotics to shipping and offshore

A female humanoid robot called Alpha spent several minutes of her valuable time greeting journalists as they arrived at the Norwegian Maritime Competence Center (NMCC) in Ålesund, Norway, last week.

This was apt, for the schedule that day comprised not only the opening of the second phase of the high-tech NMCC on the campus of that country’s University of Science and Technology but also the arrival of two key corporate tenants - both of which are spearheading shipping’s digitalisation drive and expanding their presence at the heart of Norway’s west coast maritime cluster.

Inmarsat and Rolls-Royce have each committed to renting space at the five-year-old NMCC’s latest facility, headquarters of the Blue Maritime Cluster whose members already include most of the top names amongst regional maritime and offshore builders and operators, alongside a group of international participants. The new facility brings together an eclectic and also egalitarian mix of Norwegian intellects including young computer specialists, senior university academics plus commercial frontrunners involved in maritime digital technologies.

It also houses one of Norway’s 37 Newton Rooms which provide the next generation with the very latest educational facilities, linked to the national curriculum, to inspire and motivate. The NMCC’s Newton Room is home to Alpha and several of her ‘sisters’ who performed as a group of supporting artists during a musical interlude at the official opening of the NMCC’s newest facility later the same day.

Alpha is barely a month old and has been programmed by IT students at the NMCC. However, she is now being developed to undertake more complex tasks in shipping, offshore and – potentially – other industrial sectors. There is perhaps no more suitable place for her to be evolving as new technologies, data processing capabilities, machine learning algorithms and artificial intelligence follow an ever- accelerating path of development. And all play a part in the global digital transition – perhaps most notably in shipping.


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