Kayak Expands to New Platforms as A.I. Assistants Proliferate

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an estimate of how long it will take to get through security at the airport. Currently, Kayak’s app is gathering that information from the TSA and users who choose to share with Kayak how long they waited in line.

But the company is working on a more sophisticated version that would provide the security wait times by passively collecting in-airport location data from users that agree to share that information, Zacharia says. It would be “built in a Waze-like manner,” he says, referring to the mobile app that provides real-time traffic information from driver-submitted data. (Fun fact: Kayak has tested this feature at the lunch line at its Berlin office, the company says.) [A previous version of this paragraph stated the incorrect office where the feature was tested. We regret the error.]

“Historically the Kayak mobile app has been replicating the desktop experience,” Zacharia says. “But our devices are with us all the time. They know our location. They know much more about us than our desktop browser.”

I was also curious to get Zacharia’s thoughts on whether there will be a shift back toward getting humans more involved in the travel-booking process. Kayak co-founder and former CTO Paul English is working on a new startup called Lola that helps people book trips through a combination of human travel agents and A.I. software. Kayak has also reportedly experimented with a text messaging-based travel service powered by A.I. software and some human involvement, although Kayak CEO Steve Hafner told Skift he didn’t envision the company hiring a large group of travel agents.

Kayak has since stopped working on the texting product and directed its test users to the Facebook Messenger bot. The decision was made to focus on “platforms that could return rich answers easily, without the help of a human,” according to an e-mailed statement attributed to Kate Williams, Kayak’s vice president of global communications.

Zacharia emphasizes that Kayak remains a tech company, as it has been since its founding 13 years ago.

“There are a lot of technical problems to be solved when it comes to travel,” Zacharia says.

[The above photo is courtesy of Kayak, and was taken by Kayak’s Kaijian Gao.]

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