Online travel agency Expedia has added a ChatGPT feature to its app, giving users a free AI assistant to help them plan a vacation.
The background: In November 2022, AI research firm OpenAI unveiled ChatGPT, an AI capable of responding to natural, written prompts with conversational, human-like text.
Though incredibly popular, the AI has shortcomings, including an inability to reference anything more recent than early 2022, since that’s when OpenAI stopped feeding it training data from the internet.
What’s new: On March 23, OpenAI announced that it was rolling out plugins created by 11 companies. ChatGPT Plus users can use these plugins to get new functions, such as the ability to access the internet for real-time information.
Online travel agency Expedia was one of those first companies to develop a ChatGPT plugin, and it has now announced that it is integrating ChatGPT directly into its own app — but it doesn’t function in quite the same way as the plugin.
How it works: After installing and opening the Expedia app, you click a link to “explore trip ideas with ChatGPT.” That will take you to a page where you can ask Expedia’s experimental travel assistant for help to plan a vacation.
For example, you can request restaurant recommendations near the Statue of Liberty or for a list of family-friendly hotels in London. The AI can even produce an itinerary for an entire trip based on your interests or dietary preferences, though it seems to have a character limit that means longer answers might get cut short.
The cold water: The AI feature in the Expedia app is far more limited than the Expedia plugin within ChatGPT Plus itself — while it can help you plan a vacation, it can’t help you book one or even price one out because it can’t access the internet.
However, this service is free — no need to pay for a ChatGPT Plus subscription — and after you’re done chatting with the AI, it will save the names of places you discussed in the Expedia app, making it easy for you to then check their prices or book accommodations later.
Looking ahead: For now, Expedia’s chatbot is only available in English on iOS devices, but the company anticipates adding it to Android and in other languages in the future — assuming users seem to like having an AI help them plan a vacation.
“We view this as a really interesting capability to make the shopping experience, the discovery experience, easier for certain people who want to use natural language,” Expedia CEO Peter Kern told Fast Company. “It may not be for everybody. It may not be for all of our consumers. We don’t know yet.”
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