Skift Take

ChatGPT Plus is ahead of Google Bard on the timeline of tech releases, but Bard seems to be ahead with usability.

Google has released an updated version of the Bard generative AI chatbot that includes extensions with real-time travel data for flights and hotels. 

As of Tuesday, Bard users can activate five extensions that connect with Google products: Maps, Flights, Hotels, YouTube, and Workspace, which includes Gmail, Docs, and Drive. Bard can then provide information from any of those products in answers it generates.

That means Bard users can now ask the chatbot for a specific flight or hotel availability, and it responds with options and booking links, elevating the basic itinerary creation function to one that’s more practical. 

That puts the latest version of Bard in direct competition with ChatGPT Plus, which has a marketplace of more than 200 third-party plugins that users can enable to access real-time information when interacting with the chatbot.  

OpenAI released the first version of the ChatGPT chatbot in November 2022 and released the first plugins the following March. Google released the first version of Bard in March.

The biggest difference between the latest versions is that ChatGPT Plus uses third-party plugins, while those available on Bard are Google products only. There are enough plugins on ChatGPT Plus to essentially plan an entire trip — flights, hotels, short-term rentals, ticketed events, restaurant reservations, car rentals, and more — from one place. Bard, on the other hand, is more limited in what types of real-time information it can provide. 

Another difference: Using the Bard extensions is free, while ChatGPT Plus charges $20 per month. 

How it Works 

We tested ChatGPT Plus last month and found frequent errors that would force the user to abandon a chatbot conversation and start over. 

While the content that Bard generated was not always entirely accurate — same as every generative AI technology today — we didn’t encounter any errors that disrupted the user experience. The conversations also seem to save properly, unlike on ChatGPT Plus.

Starting on the Bard homepage, the user can click the extensions icon, shaped as a puzzle piece, in the upper right corner. That’s where the user can activate any of the extensions and then return to the chat page. 

The user can start with a prompt for a flight, hotel, and itinerary for a specific destination, for example. The “@” symbol can be used to ask Bard to reference a specific extension. With the Flights and Hotels extensions activated, the chatbot responded with five options for each with links for booking.

At the bottom of the response, there is an option to share the conversation with another user, who can then continue the conversation. This could be useful for more than one person planning a trip. 

The prompt: “Show me flights from Raleigh to New York City this Thursday and hotel options from Thursday to Sunday. And give me an itinerary that includes art, modern restaurants and bars, and walking tours.”

A separate prompt for an itinerary generated a detailed response to links with more information. The default links are not always helpful, but the user can follow up to request more relevant links, like for business websites.

The prompt: “I’m looking for an itinerary starting Thursday evening until Sunday morning.”

There’s not a plugin for restaurants or other businesses specifically, but the Maps extension can provide information about businesses related to a specific prompt. A question about cheap restaurants in New York City, for example, generates a list with links and a map with pins in for each location. The chatbot said that all the restaurants listed in the below video take reservations, but not all of them do.

The prompt: “Show me cheap restaurants in New York City that take reservations.”

With the Youtube extension, users can ask for videos about topics like hidden gems in certain destinations or travel tips for first-timers.

The prompt: “Show me hidden gems in New York City on @YouTube.”
The prompt: “Show me tips for visiting NYC for the first time.”

With the Workspace extension, Bard can access the user’s Gmail account. In response, to a question about an upcoming flight to New York City for Skift Global Forum next week, Bard presented a link to the confirmation email from American Airlines.

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Tags: artificial intelligence, bard, chatbots, chatgpt, generative ai, google, google bard, online travel, online travel newsletter, OpenAi, travel planning, trip planning

Photo credit: Google updated travel planning functionality on the Bard generative AI chatbot. Jan Vašek / Pixabay

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