Hipmunk has debuted a trip-planning tool powered by artificial intelligence.
Today CEO Adam Goldstein revealed the product, called Hello Hipmunk, at the Phocuswright Conference in Fort Lauderdale.
Hipmunk now lets travelers email it to ask basic questions about travel on particular dates and receive computer-generated suggestions for flights, trains, hotels, or vacation rentals.
Tnooz tested this part of the service by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org with basic queries, like "What hotels in Oaxaca in 13 to 20 January".
Despite not being grammatical, the statement was still interpreted correctly by Hipmunk's software, which inferred what we were looking for. It provided a few hotel suggestions, plus links to additional hotels and vacation rentals.
From any email client, users can send a message. It can even be in the CC line of a message with others, with all parties receiving a message from the travel company.
The AI technology behind these tools was built in-house. Like all AI systems, it is far from perfect.
When reading our message "need to book a place to stay in Fort Lauderdale for Nov 16 thru 19", Hipmunk responded with hotel stay recommendations just for the night of the 16th.
But the company says that the AI tool will improve as it receives more responses and learns from mistakes.
When it fails, the tool is sufficiently gracious. In our tests, when we provided insufficient information ("i need a flight from San Fran to London in July"), it responded with this canned message:
"Oh no, my Hipmunk brain is so confused!
Looks like you want to fly from San Francisco, CA to London, UK. Supply me with the dates you want to fly, and I'll hook you up! Type something like, "@Hipmunk, from Dec 1 to Dec 5."
Hit me with this information, and I'll get back to you in a flash!"
Hipmunk can now "read" your Google calendar, if you give it permission to do so by clicking on the Hello Calendar webpage and letting it know your home airport.
If you have some entries on your Google calendar that involve locations in cities more than 100 miles from your home airport, Hipmunk will infer your upcoming travel needs and suggest options.
For instance, a business traveler with a crowded counter would receive email prompts to consider options for booking.
The tool attempts to suggest hotels that are located near a person's meetings as specified in Google Calendar.