It was way back in 1985 I first began exploring the use of AI expert systems to automate the travel process. At that time a close friend worked for Mad Intelligent Systems in Santa Clara California. I was at United Airlines and I already had a thirst for emerging technology. I believed that automating the travel process would be made easier. This belief was reinforced when I viewed the Knowledge Navigator video that was presented by John Scully of Apple at MacWorld in 1989. I also have spoke about intelligent agents for travel in my blog post from October 2006
Technology Review (published by MIT) cites Intelligent Software Assistants being one of the major trends to watch in 2009. In that article it mentions a new Silicon Valley startup named Siri which is a spin off of research done at SRI International for the DOD.
When online travel was first introduced, the theme promoted by many OTAs was an automated travel agent. Of course this was nothing more than marketing spin as no OTA uses expert systems to enhance the travel planning and booking process. In addition firms such as Rearden Commerce, Trip Chiill and Manticpoint all have used the marketing theme of an intelligent travel assistant. I applaud their efforts, but I still believe the ultimate travel assistant that can act like the Knowledge Navigator is still unrealized and I am hopeful with firms such as Siri, true intelligent travel assistants will emerge over the next few years.