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Rosebuds Blog

Artificial intelligence and the future of travel

April 22, 2016
Connie the robot concierge
“Connie” the robot concierge

First of all, artificial intelligence is a misnomer. There is nothing artificial about computerized intelligence that beats human beings at chess and Jeopardy.

It would better be stated as machine intelligence or non-organic intelligence. To maintain continuity with conventional usage, we will refer to it as artificial intelligence in this posting.

Was that a snicker I heard? If you think artificial intelligence is one of those flights of fancy that dreamers like to embrace, think again. Its implications and applications will be far and wide, including in the travel industry. That assessment comes from no less an authority than Internet and hospitality mogul Barry Diller. Diller, the chairman and senior executive of Expedia and IAC/InterActiveCorp., flatly states that artificial intelligence will be travel’s next big thing.

Also count among people who share that view Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, and Priceline Group CEO Darren Huston. They concurred on the coming impact of artificial intelligence during their speaking engagements at a global travel and tourism conference held in Dallas this month, and produced by the World Travel & Tourism Council.

Hilton Hotels obviously sees something there as well, considering that it has introduced “Connie” the robot concierge at some of its properties. Connie is a Watson-enabled concierge that made its debut at the Hilton McLean. Yes, Watson-enabled, as in IBM. It is the big computer company that developed the robot, which draws on domain knowledge from Watson (the IBM manufactured supercomputer) and WayBlazer (the world’s first cognitive travel platform), to help hotel guests figure out what to visit, where to dine, and how to find anything at the property.

USA Today reported that Connie is named for Hilton Worldwide’s founder Conrad Hilton. The company is testing out Connie at its property next door to its headquarters. It has yet to decide if it will introduce Connie at its other properties, but it is a glimpse into the future.

It’s also a reason why Diller says artificial intelligence will be “transformational.” In fact, it will have “unimaginable consequences” over the course of a generation or two. And he suggests there will be waves of innovation, as mobile technologies, machine learning and big data converge.

In the shorter term, Khosrowshahi of Expedia says companies that embrace artificial intelligence technologies “will win” over the long term.
Skift, an industry research organization that covered the travel and tourism conference, offered this as an example of artificial intelligence for travelers: “Travelers will be able to figure out things to do or places to go that a British professor or an ardent backpacker might prefer.

Make no mistake about it, your future travels will be real, it’s the intelligence that will be artificial. Sort of.

Written by Mike Consol