A.I. May Book Your Next Trip – with Assistance


Jay Baer, a digital marketing consultant in Bloomington, Ind., spends half his time traveling on business. That means he also has to spend hours each week coordinating that travel.

Help has arrived with the Pana app, which employs artificial intelligence to aid customers.

Virtual travel assistant services — some from established companies like Facebook, IBM and Expedia, and others from new entrants like Pana andHelloGbye — are now popping up worldwide, just as major hotel chains like Starwood and Hilton are incorporating robots into their everyday operations.

Many of the virtual assistant services use artificial intelligence, a branch of computer science that simulates intelligent human behavior. Some respond to questions posed by travelers, either in live speech or digitally, while some, like Pana, rely on additional input by humans to provide answers.

Although many services are now in their infancy, they are expected to change the way travel is planned in the not-too-distant future.

The Pana app lets users chat, in conversational language, about booking travel and helps if they encounter a delay or cancellation. Responses are provided by a team of travel agents who are on duty round the clock and have access to artificial intelligence to gather information customized for the traveler.

Mr. Baer, who has been a Pana devotee since last year and recently signed a contract for his staff of 11 to use it, relies on it primarily for tips on places he visits and to rebook when his schedule changes or he encounters an unexpected delay.

Like many in the travel industry, Miriam Moscovici, director of emerging technologies for BCD Travel, a travel management company, predicts that within a year “lower-priority tasks will be handled by self-service artificial intelligence, which will free up human travel agents to do more of the intense work required.”

In 2011, artificial intelligence came into the limelight in the United States when the Watson computer, made by IBM, beat human competitors in a “Jeopardy” match. IBM’s artificial intelligence efforts are also at the forefront of travel-related initiatives. Two years ago, it invested in and began working with WayBlazer, a company whose co-founder, Terrell Jones, helped start the travel websites Travelocity and Kayak.

Read the source article at The New York Times