Disrupted Vacations – Google AI is now making holiday choices way more interesting

AI could positively disrupt the holiday business

iDisrupted Commentary

From 2013-2014, I was Chairman of Thomas Cook’s Digital Advisory Board – we were charged by the CEO, Harriet Green – with looking at technology to help potential customers make more informed choices on where to go on holiday – one of the first things we did was a very successful trial of using VR to help customers pre-experience a holiday  –  that VR technology is becoming mainstream and the adoption curve is looking more like a cliff with massively funded developments like Magic Leap.

There’s another angle – one that was too early in the tech cycle to make practical at Thomas Cook – building an AI app that when users were inspired by a landscape photograph in media they could upload the picture to the Thomas Cook AI engine and have a number of packaged holidays displayed that were similar to the original target – looks like Google is going in that direction as well. . .

From Gizmodo: “In case you didn’t already feel like Google was a creepy stalker, its artificial intelligence tools are rapidly crossing over into uncanny. The latest one is PlaNet, a new deep-learning machine that specializes in figuring out where a photo was taken—using nothing but the image’s pixels.

Image recognition with AI
Image via Adam Bautz/Flickr

Today, MIT Tech Review reports on a new effort led by Tobias Weyand, a computer vision specialist at Google, to create a computer that sees a photo and can instantly figure out where in the world it’s from. The system was fed over 90 million geotagged images across the planet, and trained to spot patterns based on location. Basically, it smashes the image into pixels and cross-references those pixels with its massive memory bank.

In a trial run using 2.3 million geotagged images, PlaNet determined the country of origin with 28.4 percent accuracy and the continent of origin in 48 percent of cases. Now, those figures might not sound so impressive, but as MIT Tech Review points out, PlaNet is already performing quite a bit better than humans, whose squishy organic brains have a lifetime of ecological and cultural cues to draw on. And with more image training, PlaNet has the potential to get even better.

“We think PlaNet has an advantage over humans because it has seen many more places than any human can ever visit and has learned subtle cues of different scenes that are even hard for a well-traveled human to distinguish,” Weyand told MIT Tech Review.

If you’re a photography buff who sometimes forgets to geotag your images, tools like PlaNet could one day become your best friend. Then again, if you were already worried about Google watching your every move, it might be time to start avoiding cameras entirely.” More