A team of researchers from the marine research non-profit organization ProMare in technology collaboration with IBM built the world’s first Artificial Intelligence (AI) ship, the ‘Mayflower 400’, which is on a mission to be first full-sized marine craft to cross the Atlantic autonomously, relying on artificial intelligence, robotics and clever computer work to cross 3,000 miles of ocean — without even single sailor on board.

A 15-m-long trimaran (a kind of a yacht) that weighs 9 tons, the Mayflower Autonomous Ship (MAS) is a grass roots initiative led by marine research non-profit ProMare with support from IBM and a global consortium of partners

The ship also has its own 7-armed, stowaway octopus chatbot called Artie, which is touted as the world's first AI octopus. Powered by IBM Watson Assistant technology and created in partnership with European start-up Chatbotbay, Artie has been trained to provide information about MAS and its adventures in a lively, and accessible format.


Users can even help Artie the Octopus fish out surgical masks, cigarette butts and other increasingly common forms of ocean litter from a virtual ocean of facts and data.

Working in tandem with oceanographers and other vessels, MAS provides a flexible, cost-effective and safe option for gathering critical data about the ocean. It can spend long durations at sea, carrying scientific equipment and making its own decisions about how to optimize its route and mission.

The ship has been equipped with a smart captain, an artificial intelligence (AI) technology which can performs a similar role to a human captain. The ship is also installed six high-tech cameras and radars to help the ship learn during its course. The ship, however, is yet to be work at its best under the worst weather conditions.

The so called "AI Captain" can assimilate data from a number of sources, it constantly assesses its route, status and mission, and makes decisions about what to do next. Cameras and computer vision systems scan the horizon for hazards, and streams of meteorological data reveal potentially dangerous storms. Machine learning and automation software ensure that decisions are safe and in-line with collision regulations.

MAS will begin the transatlantic voyage on May 15, 2021 subject to good weather conditions. The initial launch was meant to commemorate the sailing of the original Mayflower that pilgrims from England took to seek a new settlement in America in 1620.


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