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ChatGPT, Google, and Meta want to own your next trip. Here's how

ChatGPT, Google, and Meta want to own your next trip. Here's how


Generative artificial intelligence has made major leaps in recent weeks, some of the most remarkable advances since its emergence 18 months ago.

OpenAI, Google and Meta each released updated AI models this spring, and each indicated they envision chatbots as personal assistants that can understand text, video, photos and voice.

The companies used travel-related examples to explain how they want users to adopt the assistant, which could undermine travel companies releasing their own products built on OpenAI and Google technology.

The topic will be part of discussions at Skift's inaugural Data and AI Summit in New York on June 4. Speakers such as Microsoft's Shane O'Flaherty and travel planning startup expert Gilad Berenstein will discuss how the industry is – and isn't – embracing AI.

Some initial tests show that OpenAI's latest generative AI model still produces factual errors, just like all other models (even OpenAI acknowledges this).

But the point is, these companies are moving forward, and the high-tech digital travel concierge of the future is a little closer.

Below are detailed examples and analysis of how AI chatbots ChatGPT, Gemini, and Meta AI are becoming better translators, tour guides, and trip planners.

Skift has tested some aspects, but not everything is available yet.

Voice Translation

OpenAI plans to release a new voice-to-speech translation feature in the coming weeks that could open up new destinations for international travelers.

According to the demo, the robotic voice on the ChatGPT mobile app is remarkably human-like and can act as a translator.

Mobile users will be able to have voice conversations with ChatGPT starting in 2023, but what exists today is simple compared to what OpenAI will come up with next.

The new voicebot can understand non-verbal cues like breath and tone of voice, pause and listen when interrupted, and recognize different voices in group conversations.

OpenAI says the robot can change the tone of its voice (to sound more excited or sarcastic), sing, laugh, etc. In the demo, the robot also appears to be able to speak languages ​​with appropriate accents, although the existing voice always seems to have an American English accent.

This could remove language barriers that may prevent travelers from visiting certain destinations.

Existing text translation tools, such as Google Translate, are very limited in their capabilities: Not only are they difficult to use, they struggle to translate between common languages, often misunderstand slang and idiomatic expressions, and are nearly useless for less common languages.

Although ChatGPT voicebot currently produces a human-like voice, it basically works in multiple steps: listening to audio, converting it to text, translating that text, and reading the translation out loud. This can make it slow and glitchy.

The next version will be voice-only, and OpenAI has shown it can respond instantly as if it were talking to a human.

In Skift's quick tests, the existing chatbot was able to understand and translate clips in three relatively uncommon languages: Hungarian, Catalan, and Haitian Creole. It was also able to understand Mexican slang, explain its meaning, and provide context for when it's appropriate to use it. OpenAI says ChatGPT's language capabilities are only getting stronger.

OpenAI published a blog post with several demos showing how it works, and at the bottom of the same post they also show where the chatbot might run into problems.

Google said it plans to release similar voice features for Gemini this summer, but the technology has not yet been demonstrated.

Visual Translation

OpenAI and Meta are also promoting the visual translation capabilities of their technologies, both citing menu translation as an example.

This kind of tool is a great solution when a restaurant doesn't have a menu in a traveler's native language. Even for people who speak the other language pretty well, it can be hard to decipher a menu, as it often contains words that aren't used in everyday conversation.

Users will be able to take a photo of a menu and ask ChatGPT to translate it, provide cultural information about the dishes and make suggestions about what to order, OpenAI said in a blog post.

Skift ran a quick test with the ChatGPT mobile app and found that for photos and PDF files, translation worked pretty well, though not perfectly. It also allows users to ask questions about unfamiliar dishes or ingredients.

ChatGPT testing menu translation. Source: Skift

Meta also highlighted the feature in a recent announcement of the latest version of its Ray-Ban Meta smart glasses, though Skift has not yet tested it. Meta says that if a user is traveling in France and needs help translating a menu, the glasses will be able to display the translated text without them having to look at their phone screen.

Tour guide

OpenAI, Google and Meta have all said that chatbots will be able to see and hear their surroundings in real time, meaning they could essentially become virtual tour guides.

The vision for the Gemini app is to be the most helpful personal AI assistant by giving you direct access to Google's latest AI models, Sissy Xiao, Google's vice president and general manager of Gemini experience, said at the conference last week.

Meta recently announced that it has incorporated its latest Meta AI model into its Ray-Ban Meta smart glasses. During an earnings call last month, Mark Zuckerberg even described the glasses as an AI assistant: “It can show you what you see and tell you what you hear, so it has a complete picture of what's going on around you and can help you with whatever you're trying to do.”

Tech influencer Cleo Abram showed how she could act as a guide in New York City through a paid partnership with Meta and Ray-Ban.

“They do this all through Meta AI. When I say 'Look,' it takes a photo, analyzes it, and uses massive language models to give me an answer,” Abram says in the ad.

The prompt she gave while gazing through her glasses at the Washington Monument: Hey, Meta: look and tell me. What's the history of that monument?

The chatbot responded: This was built to commemorate the 100th anniversary of George Washington’s inauguration as president.

Another question: Hey, Meta: look, tell me, which church is that?

Answer: The name of this building is Washington Square Methodist Episcopal Church.

ChatGPT and Gemini won't be able to read live video until later this year, but they will be able to view photos.

Skift's tests showed that ChatGPT is pretty good: it doesn't know everything, but it can use context to make good guesses.

A photo of an atrium in Orlando International Airport has generated the following responses: The photo appears to have been taken inside the atrium of a large building, possibly an airport terminal or a hotel. The presence of palm trees, a fountain and multiple floors with balconies suggests that this is Orlando International Airport in Florida, USA. The architecture and indoor landscaping are distinctive features of the location.

ChatGPT test for photo recognition. Source: Skift

Below is ChatGPT's commentary on Valencian paella, accurately describing it as containing rabbit, chicken, a type of kidney bean, and snails.

Source: Shift

Gemini, on the other hand, is not yet so good at recognizing photos: When asked about the same photo, it responded with: “Sorry, we don't yet have support for images of people.”

Gemini test of photo recognition. Source: Skift Reimagined Search and Trip Planning

Google last week gave three specific examples of its investments in AI-powered travel planning, both through Gemini and its traditional search bar.

This is a big move compared to competitors and shows that Google is serious about helping customers not only book but also plan their trips.

While the paid version of the Gemini Advanced platform's trip-planning features haven't been released yet, Skift is already testing a redesigned search bar in action. It may be a little clunky, but it's a clear glimpse into what Google search results will look like going forward: AI-generated summaries across the top and bottom, some lists and videos in the middle, and fewer traditional links.

Meta is also pushing the upgraded chatbot travel planning capabilities. The Meta AI chatbot can now answer travel questions within group chats on Messenger, Whatsapp, and Instagram. So if you're planning a trip together as a group on Whatsapp, Meta AI can suggest activities in a new city or share information about flight availability.

Meta AI tests flights in Messenger group chats. Source: Skift

Since generative AI was first released in 2022, travel experts have predicted that large companies such as Google will be the biggest winners, while smaller hotels and tour operators may suffer the most as their websites are pushed further down the page.

For travel companies with low internet traffic, such as destination marketing organizations, the newly reimagined search could be a killer unless they rethink how they operate.


OpenAI is the company furthest along in developing a virtual personal assistant that can act as a tour guide.

Google has been the most advanced in creating useful trip planning tools integrated with booking options.

While Metas Glasses offers an interesting digital tour guide option, the fact that it's glass limits what users can do, and Meta AI via Whatsapp and other apps still can't see photos, making this chatbot the furthest along in terms of being an all-around useful assistant.




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