Travel Company Taps ChatGPT to Advise Tourists

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Your friendly neighborhood travel agent was replaced by apps, but now there’s a newer digital version.

Travel company TUI said Thursday that it’s adding ChatGPT to its app for UK wanderlustees. The idea is that users will be able to ask ChatGPT for advice on their travels. TUI said in a statement the feature had begun as an “experiment” by three engineers, but that it’s now launching it as a pilot.

Generative Vacations

TUI’s idea isn’t totally novel, some ChatGPT users have already played around with getting the generative-AI-powered chatbot to plan vacations for them. In April, A CN Traveller journalist tasked ChatGPT with planning her honeymoon (complete with a 14-month-old child) to the Faroe Islands. While the chatbot waxed lyrical about the island group’s “rugged coastlines,” it also suggested a flight route that was completely impossible, advising the journalist to book a non-existent direct flight from Minneapolis to Copenhagen.

It’s not clear to what extent TUI might have tinkered with ChatGPT when folding the bot into its app, perhaps sharpening its travel knowledge (and basic ability to search flights on Google). TUI also isn’t the only company racing to get a consumer-facing advice-bot to market:

  • The New York Times reported Wednesday that Google is testing a generative-powered AI product that could dole out life advice. Per the NYT, a contractor for Google engaged over 100 experts with various kinds of PhDs to test the product.
  • An example prompt viewed by the NYT was asking the bot for advice on how to tactfully tell a friend the user couldn’t come to their wedding because it was too expensive. In all honesty, why turn to a chatbot for advice when you have thousands of strangers on Reddit who will happily debate your relationship problems free of charge?

AIcquistion: This week also saw a shift in the business strategy of OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT, as it made its first public acquisition. OpenAI said Wednesday it had acquired Global Illumination, a tiny New York-based company headed up by a former head of engineering at Instagram. Global Illumination appears to specialize in visual, rather than textual, products, its most recent work being on a video game called Biomes.