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Google may be behind OpenAi regarding generative AI, but it's getting closer to catching up. Interestingly, it used a few travel-relevant examples when demonstrating its latest batch of capabilities.

Google announced on Wednesday several features powered by generative AI, including a few relevant to the travel sector. The news was shared at Google I/O, the company’s annual developer conference, presented by Google CEO Sundar Pichai and other company executives.

Google Search is getting an update with generative AI from Bard, similar to the way Microsoft updated Bing with tech from OpenAI. 

That means a search prompt for travel can be more detailed upfront, and the top of the results page will be integrated with a fuller picture of information that includes a short answer generated by AI. It also includes relevant links, the ability to expand results to see more information, and the ability to ask a follow-up question.

The goal is that rather than having to use the traditional method of breaking a search into pieces to get personalized results, the more complex tech can handle complicated search prompts and deliver more thorough results. 

“Now, Search does the heavy lifting for you,” said Cathy Edwards, vice president and general manager of search discovery and ecosystems, during the conference. 

Edwards performed a demo with the search prompt: “What’s better for a family with kids under 3 and a dog, Bryce Canyon or Arches?” The AI-generated response said both locations are family-friendly, but only Bryce Canyon has some trails that allow dogs. 

“These new generative AI capabilities will make Search smarter and searching simpler, and as you’ve seen, this is really especially helpful when you need to make sense of something complex with multiple angles to explore,” Edwards said. 

Google Maps is getting an update that will give the user a bird’s eye view of a route, which Pichai showed could be especially useful for bike riders who want to find a scenic route with a bike trail. The user will also be able to check air quality, traffic, and weather, and how that might change over the next few hours. 

That updated Maps feature will be released this summer ​​starting in 15 major cities. 

Pichai also used a travel-related example to show how generative AI is enhancing Gmail. Several years ago, Google released a feature recommending short responses users select for email replies. Now, that feature is being enhanced. The updated tech can read an email and draft a response with the appropriate details included. If an airline sends an email offering a voucher when the user wants a full refund, for example, the user can prompt the Gmail feature to draft an email that asks for a refund. 

These announcements come a couple of months after Google released Bard, the chatbot similar to ChatGPT, which was released by OpenAI in November. 

Google is now removing the waitlist and opening Bard to more than 180 countries and territories. Starting today, users can communicate with Bard in Japanese and Korean in addition to English, and the tech is on track to support 40 languages soon. 

There have been many partnerships and integrations of ChatGPT announced since then, including plugins to help users make bookings on Kayak and Expedia during travel planning. 

There have not been many announcements about travel tech integrations with Bard, except for a recent partnership between Google and eDreams Odigeo. Executives said during the conference to expect more connections between companies, however.

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Tags: artificial intelligence, generative ai, google, google maps, online travel, travel booking, travel planning, travel technology

Photo credit: Google is enhancing its products with generative AI. / Unsplash

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