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Japan firm launches AI-powered travel help service at Vienna airport

This supplied photo shows a Bebot screen. (Photo courtesy of BESPOKE INC./Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- A chatbot traveler assistance service powered by artificial intelligence has been launched at Vienna international airport to help users obtain real-time information related to the new coronavirus.

    The service provider, Bespoke Inc., said its first chatbot service in Europe started on Sept. 15, offering travelers at Austria's largest airport information including travel restrictions related to COVID-19 and virus tests via smartphones and other devices.

    The Tokyo-based AI solutions company established in 2015 said the concierge chatbot called Bebot provides answers to travelers' questions such as "Do I need to wear a mask?" and "Where can I buy masks?" in English and German. The service also helps users find less crowded spots to secure enough social distance.

    When users click on the icon for polymerase chain reaction testing on the Bebot screen, for example, it says, "PCR testing is available at the Health Center Vienna Airport in Office Park 3" at 120 euros ($140) including tax.

    Akemi Tsunagawa, founder and chief executive officer of Bespoke, said that rules set in response to the virus pandemic often change and it is difficult to keep up with the latest ones.

    "Our technology has already been in use in disaster-prone Japan and that helped us earn good evaluations, leading to the adoption" at Vienna international airport, she said.

    The multilingual AI solution, developed specifically for travelers, has been also available at airports in other regions, such as Tampa International Airport in Florida and Narita international airport near Tokyo, according to the company.

    Bespoke, named as a model company for realizing sustainable tourism by the Japan Tourism Agency, has been providing AI solutions to transport authorities and cities to assist them in congestion management and emergency communication.

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