Google AI to power virtual travel agent

Enhanced offering: Attendees visit the Meta booth at a developers conference in San Francisco. Google’s cloud division gives Priceline access to generative AI, like the technology behind ChatGPT, which can draft text as if a human wrote it. — AP

NEW YORK: Want a New York hotel near a Christmas market, a vegan restaurant or another attraction?

Look no further than artificial intelligence (AI) from Google at Priceline as early as this summer, the companies told Reuters.

The online travel agency, part of Booking Holdings, aims to debut a more sophisticated chatbot for planning trips as well as hotel suggestions that are like “a personal concierge” tailored to users, said Martin Brodbeck, Priceline’s chief technology officer.

“You can easily find out that in Bryant Park there’s a Christmas market that runs from early November all the way through the beginning of January when you’re actually booking your hotel,” said Brodbeck.

New tools from Google’s cloud division give Priceline access to generative AI, like the technology behind ChatGPT, which can draft text as if a human wrote it.

The tools also extract information, such as hotel prices, from existing data to ensure accuracy.

For Google, drawing business through AI represents a potential way to close the gap with rivals Amazon and Microsoft, as it has long been a distant No. 3 provider of cloud services like data storage.

For Priceline, the embrace of novel technology on its website may help it vie with myriad platforms that market travel options, some of which are exploring how consumers react to AI.

Its rival, Expedia Group, has said ChatGPT would power conversations on a smartphone app.

That is giving travellers “inspiration on places to go” and booking options, said Rathi Murthy, its chief technology officer.

Both Expedia and Kayak, another site owned by Booking Holdings, have integrated their travel suggestions through features in the standalone ChatGPT programme as well.

And Google itself has long represented competition for Priceline, though Brodbeck said its cloud capabilities were what led to the partnership.

The ability to build applications atop generative AI that Google pioneered has attracted recent business, said Thomas Kurian, Google Cloud’s chief executive officer.

“There is a kind of Cambrian moment happening now where there’s an explosion of this technology,” Kurian told Reuters, referring to the extraordinary prehistoric period when a wide array of new species emerged, but he declined to answer how free corporate previews were affecting Google Cloud’s profitability.

Google’s AI will generate coding suggestions for hundreds of software developers at Priceline, said Brodbeck.

Priceline will adopt Google’s search capabilities for employee intranets. And Google’s AI will speed up marketing for trending destinations.

“You could have it create images like a beach, and you could marry that with great generative AI copy,” said Priceline’s chief technology officer. — Reuters

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