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7 ways AI will revolutionise business travel

James A. Martin | June 7, 2017
From chatbots to robotic bellhops, AI and machine learning are already having an impact on how we travel for work and pleasure.

 

6. Voice-enabled smart hotel rooms

Virtual assistants—which some view as a low-level form of AI—are making inroads at some hotels.

Marriott International is among the hotel chains exploring natural language processing and digital assistants. “Our guests are quickly adopting this technology and intelligence in their lives today,” says a Marriott spokesman. “For example, people use their phone to ask for directions, order products before you even know you need them or have translation easily available. We’re excited to test what it means to bring voice-activated technology into the guest room, so guests can request services, learn about the local area, and perform general informational tasks like asking for the weather or setting an alarm for the next morning.”

Marriott is currently testing this capability by placing Amazon Echo devices in some Marriott properties, with primary tests being conducted at the W Hotel in Austin, Texas. Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant in Echo devices can control the lighting in some Marriott rooms. The brand is also testing Apple’s Siri in some properties, particularly Marriott’s Aloft hotel in Boston.

Meanwhile, Wynn Resorts Ltd. plans to install Echos in all 4,748 of its Las Vegas hotel rooms by this summer. “Alexa will let guests control room lights, room temperature, drapery, and the television using voice commands,” CEO Steve Wynn told The Verge.

 

7. Hotel robots!

In 2014, Marriott division Starwood introduced its robotic butler, “Botlr,” at the Aloft Hotel in Cupertino, Calif. (home of Apple’s headquarters). The R2-D2-ish robot delivers small items, like toiletries, to guest rooms, among other chores. It’s also in service at Aloft Long Island City, Aloft Miami Doral, and Aloft Silicon Valley (in Newark, Calif.).

Marriott says it’s currently designing and testing Botlr’s next-generation model, which is currently being tested. Guests will be able to text their hotel’s Botlr to request service and get information about the hotel, among other amenities, according to Marriott.

The Henn-na Hotel in Japan, which opened in 2015, achieved fame as the “world’s first robot hotel,” according to Wired. The hotel has a humanoid robot, Yumeko, as well as an English-speaking dinosaur that wears a bellboy hat and bow tie. The hotel also uses robots to clean rooms and features AI-powered systems that let guests unlock their hotel room doors using facial recognition software.

Connie is Hilton’s IBM Watson-powered robot that acts as a AI-powered concierge, answering guests’ questions about hotel amenities, nearby attractions and restaurants. Connie made its debut in 2016 in Hilton’s McLean, Virginia property.

The challenges of AI for travel

To provide value-added services, AI needs “a significant amount of personal information about the customer,” notes Singh. “It wouldn’t work without this information, and it’s a huge privacy concern. A lot of people might not feel comfortable sharing their information.”

 

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