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Google's AI to power virtual travel agent from Priceline

By Jeffrey Dastin

June 6 (Reuters) - Want a New York hotel near a Christmas market, a vegan restaurant, or another attraction?

Look no further than artificial intelligence from Google at Priceline as early as this summer, the companies told Reuters.

The online travel agency, part of Booking Holdings, aims to debut a more sophisticated chatbot for planning trips, as well as hotel suggestions that are like "a personal concierge" tailored to users, said Martin Brodbeck, Priceline's chief technology officer.

"You can easily find out that in Bryant Park there's a Christmas market that runs from early November all the way through the beginning of January when you're actually booking your hotel," he said.

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New tools from Google's cloud division give Priceline access to generative AI, like the technology behind ChatGPT that can draft text as if a human wrote it. The tools also extract information such as hotel prices from existing data to ensure accuracy.

For Priceline, the embrace of novel technology may give it an edge over myriad sites that market travel options, Google among them. Google's capabilities, not competition, led to the partnership, Brodbeck said.

For Google, drawing business through AI represents a potential way to close the gap with rivals Amazon and Microsoft, against which it has long been a distant No.3 provider of cloud services like data storage.

The ability to build applications atop technology that Google pioneered has attracted customers new and old, said Thomas Kurian, Google Cloud's CEO.

"There is a kind of a Cambrian moment happening now where there's an explosion of this technology," Kurian told Reuters, referring to the extraordinary prehistoric period when a wide array of new species emerged.

He declined to answer how free corporate previews were impacting Google Cloud's profitability, but he said the company focused on cost efficiency and that with great products the "business will take care of itself."

Among other uses, Google's AI will be generating coding suggestions for hundreds of software developers at Priceline, said Brodbeck. Priceline will adopt Google's search capabilities for employee intranets. And Google's AI will speed up marketing for trending destinations.

"You could have it create images like a beautiful beach, and you could marry that with great generative-AI copy," Brodbeck said. (Reporting By Jeffrey Dastin in Palo Alto, Calif.; Editing by Sonali Paul)