As an ongoing supporter of the TTC Community, we are excited to announce the new API Alterra.ai has just launched! We sat down with the one and only Founder and CEO Sergei Burkov to talk APIs and chatbots in travel tech. Oh, and want to hear it from the man himself? Register to Travel Tech Con where you can meet Sergei in the flesh!
No programming, just Deep Learning.
Alterra.ai is a Deep Learning / NLP startup, building conversational virtual assistants for online travel and beyond. We can do it virtually without programming, using Deep Learning (LSTM) instead – just feed a training corpus into the neural network.
Alterra is a virtual AI travel agent. She can recommend travelers where to go on vacation and what to see there. She can then book flights and hotels.
Alterra is a bot. She understands plain English. You can chat with her, as with a human. Almost :-) However, Alterra is 100% powered by AI algorithms. No humans are involved, whatsoever.
What problem is Alterra solving?
Bots are gaining in popularity, mostly because users are spending more time in messengers than in email or apps. They also prefer chat to a phone call. Every travel brand needs its own bot. However, building chat bots is hard. AI and natural language understanding require Google-level special knowledge not readily available to the majority of the OTAs, airlines, hotel chains, TMCs, and other travel companies. Universal AI platforms like Google's API.ai, IBM Watson, Facebook's Wit.ai and others are not intelligent enough to automate travel agency workflow. Additionally, TMCs are still employing live travel agents to take orders over email or phone. It's expensive and inefficient.
What inspired your company?
Bots are coming. But dumb bots suck. They need brains. However, building bots with scripting and regular expressions is too labor intensive, and still the bots are too dumb. Luckily, now there is better approach: Deep Learning. There is a clear need for silicon brains for chatbots, in travel and beyond.
Announcing the new Alterra Travel API.
The Alterra Travel API allows third- party developers to build their own virtual travel agents that can sell flights and hotels, and recommend destinations, all in natural language. Developers can also embed the functionality in broader virtual assistants and pair it up with live travel agents, etc.
The API takes free-form user query, extracts all parameters such as locations, dates, target prices, class of service, amenities, etc. and returns them in a structured form. For example, travelers may say things like "I need 2 nonstop economy class tickets from San Francisco to Munich departing next Friday back in 10 days" -- the software will understand it. Developers may pass these structured queries to GDSs or their booking engines. The API also returns text to be displayed to the users.
What are you most looking forward to about Travel Tech Con?
Meeting people who work on similar issues, and customers.
Who do you want to meet at the Travel Tech Con 2017 and who should approach you?
Customers! OTAs, airlines, hotel chains, TMCs, and other travel companies.
Sergei Burkov PhD is the founder and CEO of Alterra.ai, a Deep Learning / NLP startup, building bots for online travel and beyond. Sergei ‘s previous startup was acquired by Google, where he became the first head of its R&D Center in Moscow, Russia.
Are you a Travel Startup?
Just like Alterra.ai your startup can be featured in a TTC blog just like this! All you need to do is become a TTC Startup, simple as that! Another bonus as a TTC Startup is that you can apply to pitch at Travel Tech Con 2017. Please apply here (will only take you a few secs!).