Skift Take

The quick ChatGPT update exemplifies the rapid advancement of AI and how easily new work can be left in the dust.

Series: Travel Tech Briefing

Travel Tech Briefing

Editor’s Note: Exclusive reporting on technology’s impact on the travel industry, delivered every Thursday. The briefing will guide executives as they decide if their companies should “build, buy, or partner” to stay ahead.

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Since OpenAI released the groundbreaking ChatGPT tech late last year, travel companies have been exploring how the latest developments in generative AI could change the way they operate.

Only three and a half months later, OpenAI released an update of the technology called GPT-4. Among several notable updates, the last version of ChatGPT can accept images, not just text, and describe them in detail. It can also score in roughly the top 10 percent of students on the Uniform Bar Examination. The latest version, called ChatGPT Plus, requires a $20 monthly subscription for access. 

With all the work companies have been doing with the previous version of ChatGPT, the question now is what’s next for them, especially for startups that have dedicated all their resources to creating products using that first version. And if significant updates continue at this rate, how soon before products made with old versions of the tech become obsolete and need to be totally revamped? 

The application programming interface (API) for GPT-4 is not yet publicly available, but there’s a waitlist. Some companies have access to the latest version, including Microsoft, which has invested billions of dollars in the company. 

OpenAI is testing the updated tech with Be My Eyes, an app that wants to increase accessibility for blind and low-vision people. With the image input capability, the updated app could “answer any question about that image and provide instantaneous visual assistance for a wide variety of tasks,” Be My Eyes said in a blog post

Based on the implications it made about the potential of the technology, it’s easy to see how it could benefit the greater population, travelers included. Imagine being able to take a photo of a building or neighborhood, for example, and getting a detailed description about the history or events taking place there — the image input capability paves the way for that, theoretically.

“Imagine navigating a train system in an unfamiliar place, traveling in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language, browsing websites and social media platforms, online shopping, and a host of other ways we know our community will help us identify — the possibilities are limitless, and we’re just getting started,” the post stated. 

With rapid advancement of the technology, maybe the slow research and development approach that large travel companies are taking will be the best method in the long run. 

Glenn Fogel, the CEO of Booking Holdings, highlighted the company’s approach in a recent Linkedin post that spoke to the technology’s potential and acknowledged its shortcomings. 

His comments were similar to the stance by Rob Francis, chief technology officer of Booking.com. His counterpart at Expedia Group, Rathi Murthy, made similar comments. So did an executive of Trip.com and others. 

“I believe that generative AI and other technologies will play a key role in this new travel world, and many of us in the travel industry are investing right now to build the foundations,” Fogel stated. “However, there are going to be significant challenges. The problems of how to obtain real-time data from countless sources, process it all to result in optimal solutions, and then act rapidly to benefit consumers will not be solved overnight. Nevertheless, this is just one area, among many, where we are going, and travel will be better when we arrive.”

Some New Travel Tech Products 

Faye, a startup platform for travel insurance, has released a portal meant to help travel advisors and agents more easily sell and track travel insurance packages. 

Crewfare has publicly released a product meant to help event attendees and workers more easily book travel accommodations like hotel rooms and transportation. Crewfare has partnered with more than 3,000 hotels for more than 75 events slated to take place this year. The platform has sold more than 100,000 hotel rooms so far, the startup said. 

OTA Insight, which offers hospitality business intelligence, released a platform that shows short-term rental and hotel pricing for specific markets based on demand, occupancy, and rates, meant to help hoteliers make better pricing decisions. 

Tech Can’t Solve the Short-Term Rental Labor Shortage — Yet

Skift covered more about the labor shortage in short-term rentals and how technology can — and cannot — help. 

“I don’t see human workers getting out of the picture for at least another ten years. Robots cannot clean and maintain apartments yet,” said Guy Westlake, founder of property management software company Lavanda.

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Tags: artificial intelligence, chatgpt, generative ai, OpenAi, Skift Pro Columns, travel tech, Travel Tech Briefing, travel technology

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