Last week, my wife and I took a vacation to the Caribbean on the biggest cruise ship there is. I like cruising, just relaxing, swimming, reading, eating, drinking and not having to think much. There is something cool to zip-lining, boogie boarding and ice skating on a cruise ship. Since, as most of you are thinking, no right-minded academic would ever be caught on a cruise ship, I had no chance of running into another computer scientist. So peaceful.
A cruise used to keep you isolated from the outside world. Not any more. This ship had WiFi and cell phone service throughout the ship. If I was willing to pay the costs, I'd be even more connected on the ship than at home. My wife insisted on getting the large WiFi package so she could check emails from her business. I avoided reading email but did check the news. Too bad as I found out that I lost much more money in the market than the cost of the cruise, we were only days ahead of a potential hurricane and the Yankees swept my White Sox. Better to have been isolated and blissfully happy in the great weather we did have.
Computers are taking over cruise ships in lots of ways. About half the people reading read on e-book readers, usually Kindles. The photo kiosks used facial-recognition software to figure out which photos are yours. We had a single card that served as a room key, tickets to the shows, charge card for drinks, and many other roles. One day my cell phone will do all this in real life. One day.
During a Q&A with the captain, he was asked what happens when someone falls overboard. He gave a surprisingly detailed answer: "Rarely does someone 'fall' overboard, they are either pushed or they jump. If we know about it right away, we have a procedure to stop the ship and have a special rescue boat and trained crew to search. If we don't know about it right away, we have cameras so we can determine when they fell and since we know where we were, we radio for a search boat. If it is a day later...I'd better stop there."
The next step would be to use computer vision techniques to automatically tell when someone "falls" off a boat, so there is no day later.