You might have heard of travel virtual assistants Pana and Lola but you will definitely have heard of Google Allo and Assistant.
If Google Trips is being seen as the app to end all other in-destination apps, then should Allo and Assistant put to rest travel-specific concierge and chat-based apps?
The audience at last week’s SITA 2016 Air Transport IT Summit was treated to a demo of how Assistant might work for travellers. Treated because it was, it seems, only the second time the system was getting an airing.
The job title alone of Marcin Brodziak, the senior engineer from Google who presented at the Summit, is quite telling in itself - engineering lead of conversational travel.
He went through Google Assistant which can help travellers ‘plan and enjoy’ travel. For the purpose of the demo, the assistant system was in Allo but it will be accessible within other Google applications.
The beauty of assistant, says Brodziak, is that it understands the conversation and context and leverages Google’s knowledge graph.
For example - when Brodziak enters the term ‘business’ within the context of flights, it knows he means business class as opposed to anything about finance or the economy.
He takes the room through flight search to hotel search and restaurants as well as possible in-destination experiences, to show the scope of the service.
As you might expect from Google, elements such as virtual tours inside hotels and restaurants, based on Street View technology, are also integrated.
The launch of Allo and Assistant is slated for the summer, with Google Home, the device to let you talk to Google Assistant, slated for later this year.
“This is brand new tech we have been working on for a couple of years. Much of it has been launched behind the scenes but you never got to interact with it before in this way. It’s natural language processing, understanding of context, understanding of conversation and very deep understanding of user experience where we can talk with people about the things they care about.”
Towards the end of the presentation he gives a special mention to the experiences element on Assistant because, he says, “we’re really going somewhere to get an experience.”
“It’s talking about flights, hotels and travel but also a lot of random things that are related to the experience. When we travel we care about the logistics but we also but we also care about what’s out there.”
This is important in the context of recently launched Google Trips which stores past and present travel plans as well as enabling users to discover things to do in-destination. More power for the knowledge graph here and an obvious tie-up for Allo and Assistant.
Brodziak confirmed there would be an API for Google Assistant, but didn’t offer any further detail. In terms of monetising the service, he could not provide any information on plans.
Here's the video captured by a handheld device by Flight Chic.
And in case you missed it, here's our earlier coverage of Google's Trips app plus some more details from the Google blog.
NB: Reporter's travel and accommodation at the Summit was supported by SITA.