KAYAK and Amazon are bringing flight planning to Alexa, the virtual assistant in Amazon's smart home products.
Launching Tuesday, the KAYAK integration provides a voice-activated travel service to let users ask about travel options using their voice and an Alexa-enabled device.
Users can track live flights, find out what destinations are within their budgets, and get recommendations on the best time to fly to save the most money. To access the features, you would say, "Open KAYAK" or "Ask KAYAK," and then ask a question about flights.
"You can be in the kitchen and know, if you have to pick up someone from the airport, if the flight is going to be on time or late," Giorgos Zacharia, KAYAK's chief technology officer, told Mashable.
"Hey KAYAK, where can I fly for $500?" or "When is the best time to fly to Cancun?" are the kinds of questions KAYAK's service is programmed to respond to.
With this first release of the service, customers will not be able to book flights directly with Alexa. So while you'll be able to get ideas, you'll have to break out your mobile or desktop device to actually buy a ticket.
Zacharia says that the company will be making updates to the service with user feedback, and hopes to make the experience more personalized. Eventually, Alexa would remember flight preferences and personalize recommendations.
"It will be the travel agent on your kitchen counter," he said.
Although many travelers have adopted do-it-yourself online booking instead of relying on a real live travel agent, KAYAK is among several technology companies trying to bring personalization back -- in the form of machine learning and AI instead of traditional human knowledge.
KAYAK's digital travel agent even has a sense of humor: During product testing, users often asked where they could travel for $1 million. For any requests higher than $100,000, KAYAK is programmed to tell users that they can go anywhere, "even the moon." (Although we're pretty sure a ticket to space is more expensive than that.)
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