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A.I. The Rise of Artificial Intelligence: Amazon Alexa and other AI projects making headlines in the industry.

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March 01, 2017
A.I. (Artificial Intelligence) & Robots
Bill Geoghegan - Bill@LGTconsulting.com

©2017 Hospitality Upgrade
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During World War II, Alan Turing was a leading participant in the breaking of the German code known as Enigma. He developed an electromechanical machine that made it possible to quickly find the complex settings for the Enigma machine which were changed every day. His story was chronicled in the movie “The Imitation Game.”

After World War II, Turing worked for the National Physics Laboratory where he designed the first stored-program computer – ACE.

Turing is considered to be the father of theoretical computer science, and his "Turing Machine" is considered to be a model of a general-purpose computer. In the early 1950s, he addressed the problem of artificial Intelligence, proposing an experiment that became known as the Turing Test. His test stated that a computer was able to “think” if human interrogator could not determine if responses were supplied by a human or a computer. 

During what is now known as The Dartmouth Conference in 1956, Stanford researcher John McCarthy first coined the term and the core mission of AI. By that definition, any program or machine can be considered AI if it does something that we would normally think of as intelligent in humans. How that is accomplished is not important, just that it had to be able to accomplish a task that requires intelligent decisions.

In 1964, Joseph Weizenbaum working at the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory began development of a natural language processing computer program known as Eliza. The program simulated conversations between a human and computer acting as a Rogerian Psychotherapist, using a pattern matching and substitution methodology wherein the user would enter a question and receive a response that was loosely associated with that question. While it is very dumb by today’s standards, it is considered to be one of the first chatterbots, and was one of the first programs to pass the Turing Test. Eliza is an example of “weak AI” where the objective was merely to simulate responses that might have come from a human. 

Further enhancements in weak AI include IBM’s Deep Blue, which was able to play chess at the level of a chess master, but did so only by analyzing all future possible moves and choosing the best next move, but it certainly did not play the way a human would play.

Strong AI has been an elusive target, wherein a computer can genuinely simulate human reasoning, think and also explain how humans think. Perhaps the most scary example of this is the vision of the future provided by the HAL 9000 in the 1968 movie “2001: A Space Odyssey,” wherein HAL not only controls the spaceship, but eventually turned on the human crew. Dave finally unplugged HAL’s central core.

Fortunately, technology is nowhere near creating a strong AI computer, but advancements such as IBM Watson fall somewhere in-between weak and strong AI. Watson builds up evidence for its decisions and answers by looking at thousands of pieces of text which gives it a level of confidence in its conclusion. Just like humans, Watson is able to discern patterns in text that provide small pieces of evidence, then add up all that evidence to get an answer.  In order for a system to be considered artificially intelligent, it doesn’t have to work or think in the same way that humans do, but it needs to be smart enough to complete its designated task.

Within our ordinary day, AI is ubiquitious. Voice recognition and response services such as Siri, Alexa, Cortana and Google Home can recognize natural questions and respond with an answer or initiate some activity like turning on the lights or changing the setting on a thermostat. The Wynn and Encore hotels recently announced plans to add Alexa to every guestroom.

The self-driving car, led by Tesla, uses various sensors to maintain safe driving. Adaptive cruise control and other self-driving features qualify as AI. Self-driving shuttles are showing up at resorts all over the world. The Ford Motor Company announced in February that it was investing $1 billion in an AI company to help build the brains of its robot cars.
 
Among other retailers, Amazon has used transactional AI to predict what we might want to purchase based on past behavior. Although they have not yet gone this far, they would like to be able to ship products to us before we even know we need them.

On the casino front, we have facial recognition systems that scan customers looking for facial features that cannot be disguised and report known cheats or undesirables. As we know, smartphones are the primary touch point for communication. Vacationers may find their cell phone popping up unsolicited suggestions as to what nearby attractions might be of interest.

Hotels are adding AI to their repertoire in an attempt to provide better customer service, by adding functions such as determining that a guest is arriving before the guest approaches  the front desk, or perhaps by sending the guest directly to his assigned room. 

More than 60 years after Eliza, The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas has taken the chatbot to a whole new level.

Rose has been developed by The Cosmopolitan and its digital marketing agency, R/GA Chicago in an attempt to exhibit the slightly naughty mystique of the resort. Upon check-in, a guest will be given a card with a phone number.  By contacting that number, the guest is engaged in real-time conversation via text message.

“As our resident mischief-maker, Rose is an expression of our luxury-with-a-wink take on hospitality,” said Mamie Peers, senior director of digital, social and eCommerce at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. “Rose uses her wit, charm and bold personality to help guests have a better time. She is uniquely designed to move guests around the resort and surprise them along the way. What better way to experience our eclectic collection of art than through an all-knowing personal guide?”

Rose can guide guests through art tours, arrange for amenity delivery to guest rooms, or suggest the perfect restaurant. “The introduction of Rose is another way to solidify The Cosmopolitan’s position atop the list of full-service luxury resorts and casinos in Las Vegas,” Peers said. “Rose offers a VIP experience with insider information – all to help guests discover surprises found around every corner. Rose demonstrates our commitment to giving guests engaging experiences with the highest levels of service, yet through a playful – and we hope irresistible – personality.”

Rose is not left to fend alone. More complex question or requests are handled by CoStars (i.e., humans) behind the scenes. All together, they enhance the guest experience with the personality of the Cosmopolitan.

Bill Geoghegan is a consultant in Las Vegas. He can be reached for comment at Bill@LGTconsulting.com.

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