If you’ve ever seen the 2002 film Minority Report, you can’t help but be bewitched by the so-called gestural interface that Tom Cruise manipulates with hand movements to access information and call-up videos from a database. Similar interfaces have featured more and more prevalently in cinema, from Johnny Mnemonic to The Matrix and others. It’s little wonder that this dream of future tech has been the inspiration for several of the companies working at the leading cutting edge of bridge design and technology for superyachts. In fact, when I spoke with a handful of these companies a couple of years back, they all enthused about advances in technology that could make such futuristic visions an actual reality.
Think about it. The humble yacht bridge has already evolved from a functional crew space to an area that is more refined in its design to cater for visitations visits by owners and guests. This is, in part, thanks to the tech of the equipment itself, and the advent of the integrated bridge. Gone are the days when a jumble of chunky equipment, each with its own control panel of mis-matched and positively stone-age switches, cluttered the console. Now we have smooth glass panels and large screens like a nod to a sci-fi spaceship conning station.
But what of the next step? Well, it appears that Minority Report’s vision of the future is about to become the now. Driven by a handful of owners who want to create the most advanced bridges yet seen on a superyacht, the tech is finally here to allow not only complete flush flush-glass horizontal and vertical surfaces with touch- and gesture gesture-controlled switching, but also large transparent screens that can be operated by gesture from both sides. Palladium Technologies is actually working on a live 128m project that will include all this and more – even a holographic display of the yacht in the centre of the bridge that can be manipulated and rotated by gesture.
The point, it seems, is that the owner wants not only to create not just a space to enjoy the functional running of the yacht – and the great view forward – but also to wow his guests with tech that can’t be seen anywhere else, except, of course, in films. Moreover, the advent of artificial intelligence, deeper systems integration and semi-autonomous operation will mean that the bridge of the future might not need to be manned at all. Imagine that – a space that serves as the command centre for the entire yacht, not just for navigation, that you and your guests can have to yourselves….
Of course, many will argue that such things will remain a pipe dream, and that the demands of Classification classification societies for particular standards of bridge equipment will mean that such futuristic bridges will face insurmountable hurdles. But as Palladium Technologies is doing on the 128m, the solution is simple – the primary equipment required by Class class will still be there, just hidden in the radio room. The bridge will comprise all the secondary equipment – and it just so happens that the yacht will be run from the secondary equipment most of the time. Simples.
With the Star Trek-esque bridge just around the corner – the 128m Palladium is working on is due to be completed within the next three years – we need to start looking for the next dream bridge. Head-up displays and augmented reality displays are already on the horizon, and Rolls-Royce is working on this concept with VTT Technical Research Centre for to produce a version for commercial shipping which it thinks will be a reality by 2025. So what will follow that? I think it’s time to raid the film archive again. I’ll take my popcorn sweet, please.