Airbnb Says "Hi" To Alexa

by Jack Sommer

A few months ago we wrote about Amazon's Alexa technology and the interesting ways it's being applied. For a refresher, Alexa is a voice activated assistant connected to a portable bluetooth speaker hub (a product line that so far includes an Echo, Tap, and Dot). Connect the device to an Amazon account and then order any physical or digital goods offered by the company. Anything from paper towels, to a new pair of headphones. There is also the ability to stream music, check the weather, or schedule appointments - all through voice command.

Now, there's another company who sees the inevitable benefits of Artificial Intelligence (AI) home devices, such as the Alexa IoT products. Airbnb is looking to find ways to improve their customer's experience through voice technology. “We want to think about how people improve the entire experience,” said Joe Zadeh, Airbnb's product VP, in a recent Recode article. “I don’t think people that are traveling halfway across the world want to stare at technology.”

Zadeh said that Airbnb recently held a company hackathon where three different projects ended up being made that linked with the Echo product and Alexa system. He could not confirm whether these specific ideas will happen, but we are hopeful about all the prospects.

In our opinion, Alexa makes perfect sense as a partner to Airbnb. Imagine going into a reserved apartment in Barcelona, or any foreign city, and just verbally asking where the nearest park for a jog is or what the best rated restaurant is in the neighborhood? No sitting on your phone, tablet, or computer searching for an answer - just a quick verbal reply in your own language from Alexa.

It would also be interesting to see how search results, through voice technology, might be tailored more specifically for Airbnb's purposes. For example, Airbnb could ask any host, as part of their profile, to provide a few of their favorite local attractions, eats, or activities. Airbnb then could package this data to create curated selections for traveling guests, picking the most popular choices from all of the local hosts. And if just the personal favorites of the guest's host were desired to be known, that could be shared too. It eliminates your search from hundreds of options to just focus on the locals' favorite spots.

What makes Airbnb special is their vast network of people from all walks of life, hosting their one-of-a-kind personal homes. This community's level of insight could certainly provide a sophisticated hyperlocal travel content system. Without even a huge shift in their process, Airbnb could turn itself to one of the most popular and highest quality global travel publishers. 

Whether or not Airbnb will take it this far, we will have to see - although perhaps it is more just a matter of when. Amazon may want to help insure this program happens sooner than later, however (even if it comes at a cost, like free Alexa products for hosts), because it certainly will help them sell a lot of extra units globally and get more new user trials for Alexa.