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During the latest months we have shown so many great use cases of new technologies being applied to more spheres of human life – finance, security and fraud detection, health and even cooking and disaster recovery. Recently, I have come across other examples that would target a brand new industry introducing all kind of linguistic technologies and learning algorithms for a better user experience – traveling and sightseeing!

One of the examples is the idea of using Watson – IBM’s intelligent computer as… a museum tour guide! IBM seems to be doing great progress in machine learning – Watson is being trained to perform legal case analysis, the business analytics solution was released for public use, IBM is now presenting its health solution in a partnership with Apple, Johnson & Johnson and Medtronic[i]. The goal of the partnership and a new business unit within IBM is “to create new health-based offerings that leverage information collected from personal health, medical and fitness devices. The results will be better insights, real-time feedback and recommendations to improve everything from personal health and wellness to acute and chronic care”[ii]. Moreover, to expand the machine learning capabilities of IBM Watson Health and the knowledge database related to the healthcare industry, IBM has acquired two healthcare technology companies – Explorys and Phytel – using Big Data and analytics applied to personal and corporate health-related information[iii].

Coming back to travel – IBM Research India has worked on a different solution focused on sightseeing. The group of researchers presented a solution using quite a number of technologies – it is a mobile application using the information from the phone’s accelerometer, gyroscope and compass, as well as geolocation data in order to detect the exact user’s position and orientation in a museum in order to produce a description of what he or she is currently seeing – like, "On your left is van Gogh’s Sunflowers".[iv] The data analysis technology and context analysis combined with the speech synthesis could deliver a great user experience in museums and sightseeing places. This could also automate the traditional audio-guides and bring the augmented reality experience directly from the personal smartphones.

In the case of IBM Watson, the travelers are targeted directly with a B2C approach. Another example of intelligent algorithms applied to travel industry is oriented at the travel service providers and websites providing information on travel-related services. One of localization leading companies and the developer of computer-assisted translation and machine translation solutions, SDL has announced cloud based machine translation platforms that are industry specific. “Travel and Hospitality” is one of the targeted industries[v]. These platforms are auto-populated with the terminology related to the industry and the translation engine fine-tuned specifically for the domain. The technology is surely using ontological links between words in order to classify them according to the context and the subject matter. This way the translation will be rendered more exact while the corpus of data processed for statistical machine translation reduced.

What is interesting to see is the example of numerous intelligent technologies converging to a new market. Travel is something we are doing more naturally now, there are more globetrotters searching for a personalized experience and this is exactly where learning algorithms are providing the added value both for individuals and travel service providers.


[i] IBM and Partners to Transform Personal Health with Watson and Open Cloud, IBM News room, April 13, 2015, online, accessed on April 17, 2015

[ii] IBM and Partners to Transform Personal Health with Watson and Open Cloud, IBM News room, April 13, 2015, online, accessed on April 17, 2015

[iii] IBM and Partners to Transform Personal Health with Watson and Open Cloud, IBM News room, April 13, 2015, online, accessed on April 17, 2015

[iv] IBM’s Watson Could Make a Knowledgeable Tour Guide by Rachel Metz for MIT Technology Review on April 10, 2015, online, accessed on April 13, 2015

[v] SDL Travel & Hospitality Language Platform, online, accessed on April 17, 2015