‘I let AI plan my day out completely – from the food I ate to places I saw’

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A travel influencer has explained how she used a new Artificial Intelligence (AI) service to help her plan a day out in London.

Nicola Easterby, 29, from Australia, shares her experiences on her website Polkadot Passport – and a lot of her content is based around the amazing food she eats while abroad. But, she claims it can take a long time to find the best foodie spots when traveling… until now.

While planning a foodie day out in London she sought out GuideGeek. The service lets you ask an AI robot questions on Instagram, WhatsApp and soon Facebook with details down to whether restaurants have gluten free food or the best attractions for autistic children, as well as helping people find hotels and things to do, in any city in the world.

READ MORE: Inside high-tech café with robot waiters controlled by staff at home

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That’s very handy for those who additional requirements which many travel sites and blogs don’t consider. Nicola decided to ask for help planning a day out going from eatery to eatery – but all had to be beloved by famous chef Anthony Bourdain.

The unusual request was apparently dealt with very well by the futuristic AI – and Nicola got the perfect day out. Speaking to Daily Star, she said: “It always takes me a lot of time to research food spots whether I am traveling or home in London. I loved the ease of using AI to do the research for me.

“Most of the suggestions were fairly predictable, however, this was because the scope of my search (Anthony Bourdain’s favourite places to eat in London) was quite narrow. When I have used the tool for other searches around London, I’ve definitely gotten suggestions of restaurants and cafes I had never heard of, so it is great for learning about new spots.”

Plus, she went on to not only ask for restaurant recommendations – but even which dishes to choose. The AI offered some interesting options. Nicola said: “I did ask for dish recommendations. GuideGeek suggested eating oysters at Borough Market. I am not normally a big oyster fan but this pushed me out of my comfort zone and got me to order something I wouldn’t normally order!

“My favourite suggestion from GuideGeek was to visit St. JOHN Restaurant. I had such a fabulous meal there! I did know this was Bourdain’s favourite restaurant but I was glad to get confirmation from GuideGeek. The restaurant had a relaxed and unpretentious atmosphere and the food was unlike anything I have had before. British cuisine done well! The braised hogget [a type of pie] was one of the best things I’ve eaten in a long time.”

Nicola said the AI made planning more “simple” although sometimes the dishes it recommended weren’t available. Plus, she noted that it can “tailor its suggestions”.

The worry might be that if everyone uses the AI to find the best spots people might all end up in the same hotspots. But, Nicola said: “As long as the AI is continuing to learn and not spitting out the same suggestions each time I think it will be okay.”

Ross Borden, CEO of Matador Network, which created and operates GuideGeek, from California, also spoke to the team about the new service. He said that the AI works as a “conversation”.

He commented: “You fire off a message to the AI about where you’re thinking of going or what you’re interested in and you take it from there. You can ask it follow-up questions and share your preferences and needs to help it very quickly zero in on exactly what you’re looking for and provide you with ideas you wouldn’t have thought of or found elsewhere.

“It can be used for advance planning – we’ve seen people using GuideGeek to plan a destination wedding for 50 people months ahead or asking for itineraries well into next year. We also see people using GuideGeek while at their destination to find restaurants and entertainment or to adjust their plans due to weather or a flight cancellation.

“I think the adoption of AI in travel planning will lead to more diverse travel experiences because the recommendations are based on what you tell the AI about yourself. Everything it recommends – from which cities to visit in Europe, to what restaurant to try in L.A. – is customised to what you tell GuideGeek about yourself and your preferences.

“The recommendations GuideGeek can produce are as varied as the human beings interacting with the AI. Asking for recommendations for people with disabilities is one of the best uses of GuideGeek, because this information can be hard to find using search engines.

“GuideGeek can round up information in seconds that otherwise might take you hours of combing through articles and reviews online, looking for information relevant to a specific disability. GuideGeek has read those reviews – it’s read everything that’s out there about travel – and it can recommend activities and locations not just factoring in a certain disability, but also your other interests, preferences and travel companions as well.

“Using GuideGeek to find restaurants (or even destinations) for people with dietary restrictions is a fantastic use of the technology for similar reasons. You don’t even have to be traveling – if you’re planning a last-minute dinner with someone who is vegan or gluten-free and you’re not familiar with the appropriate places in the area, GuideGeek will turn around a list of recommendations in no time.”

The Daily Star decided to give the AI tool a go ourselves. We found GuideGeek on Instagram and asked it a question for an upcoming trip to York – “I’m looking for somewhere to have lunch at 2.30pm this Saturday in York with dishes under £15, a high rating and a cosy atmosphere.”

In response, the AI recommended the Golden Fleece restaurant – a very cool little pub slash hotel. It said: “It is located within the historic city centre inside the Golden Fleece Hotel and offers a charming and cosy atmosphere. Their menu features a range of English dishes with options under £15, making it budget-friendly.

“The restaurant has received high ratings for its quality and service, ensuring a satisfying dining experience. Enjoy your meal at The Golden Fleece Restaurant!” Our verdict? It’s a pretty cool piece of tech!

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