Expedia, AI Singapore join forces on AI to improve online searches for Asian travellers

Expedia Group has announced a collaboration with AI Singapore (AISG) – an inter-agency unit tasked to catalyse and grow the country’s artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities – under its flagship 100 Experiments (100E) programme to develop an AI solution to transform the online search experience for Asian travellers.

The first online travel platform to collaborate with AISG for 100E, Expedia Group will provide a team of experienced engineers, data scientists and marketers to work with the AISG’s project lead, project managers and AI apprentices to enhance travel search query understanding and improve the accuracy of search query resolution in Asian languages.

Expedia Group partners AI Singapore (AISG) to develop an AI solution to enhance online searches for Asian travellers (Pictured: Expedia Group’s Mark Okerstrom with AISG’s Laurence Liew)

Today’s search engines are efficient in understanding travel search queries and providing query resolutions in English, as English is the dominant language used online by 25 per cent of all Internet users.

However, when dealing with travel search queries conducted in Asian languages such as Japanese, Korean, simplified Chinese and traditional Chinese, the performance of the search engines declines significantly and the accuracy of query resolution dips.

For a start, the Expedia Group and AI Singapore project team will leverage natural language processing and machine learning to develop an AI-based model to enhance search query understanding and resolution in the Japanese language, before extending the model to other Asian languages to enhance online search efficiency.

When completed, the AI solution will enable Expedia Group to deepen its understanding of travel search query patterns and nuances in Asian languages, and equip the travel platform with the ability to serve the needs of Asian travellers better by improving the accuracy and efficiency of search query resolution.

Mark Okerstrom, president and CEO, Expedia Group, said: “With more than 7,000 data architects, AI experts and engineering specialists at Expedia Group, this collaboration with AISG has the potential to unlock new and industry-leading AI solutions to improve online travel, bringing the world within reach for those shopping for travel online in Asian languages.”

With online travel spending in Asia-Pacific expected to account for more than 40 per cent of global online travel sales by 2020, surpassing North America and Western Europe, Expedia Group’s senior director, product and technology Kevin Ng said the collaboration will enable the development of a viable AI solution that can not only enhances search query understanding but will also transform the online search experience for Asian travellers.

Laurence Liew, director, AI industry innovation, AI Singapore, indicated that through this collaboration, it will also help “train Singaporean AI engineers via the AI Apprenticeship Programme”.

AISG’s 100E programme matches companies which are keen to use AI to address their problem statements with local researchers. AISG is driven by a government-wide partnership comprising NRF, the Smart Nation and Digital Government Office, the Economic Development Board, the Infocomm Media Development Authority , SGInnovate and the Integrated Health Information Systems.

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