Surrey introduces world’s first AI-powered travel guide

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The University of Surrey has developed the world’s first AI-powered travel guide to work alongside Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly Slow Travel book.

A team of researchers at Surrey and the Open University have been working with Bradt Travel Guides on an innovative Android app, Cornwall a-book, as part of the Next Generation Paper (NGP) project – a marriage between classic paper and digital technology, funded by the EPSRC’s Digital Economy program.

NGP uses state-of-the-art electronics embedded within traditional paper or award-winning image recognition software to trigger digital content on mobile phones while a user is reading the book. For example, it could allow users to listen to the call of a bird while reading about the species in the wildlife section of the guide book.

While using Cornwall a-book, visual object recognition, audio analysis and geolocation work together to provide exciting, personalized digital content to the traveler. This breaks the boundaries between paper and digital content to transform the travel experience.

The latest app uses the world-leading recognition technology developed by Professor Miroslaw Bober and his team at Surrey’s Center for Vision, Speech and Signal Processing.

Professor Bober, whose team developed the AI components and software behind Cornwall a-book, said: “Our app uses the latest advances in AI to robustly and instantly recognize and classify real-world objects and locations, even under changing viewing angles and obstructions. We are excited that our technology will make the travel experience more comfortable and engaging.”

Professor Caroline Scarles, from Surrey’s School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, said: “This is an exciting next step in shaping the future of books, paper and technology in the travel industry. The augmented guidebook embeds multimedia content within traditional guidebooks enabling travelers access to interactive information without having to put their book down.”

Professor David Frohlich, Director of the Digital World Research Centre at the University of Surrey, said: “The project with Bradt Travel Guides is an important milestone for Next Generation Paper. It provides a great use case for how this marriage between physical and digital media could greatly improve people’s experience and knowledge of the world around them.”

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