Airbnb plans to use AI, including its GamePlanner acquisition, to create the ‘ultimate concierge’

  • February 13, 2024

In November, Airbnb acquired a stealth AI firm launched by Siri’s co-founder, called GamePlanner.AI. The deal valued the secretive startup at around $200 million, according to reports. Though the hosting company didn’t telegraph its plans for GamePlanner at the time, Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky today shared a high-level overview of Airbnb’s larger plans for AI, saying that it planned to accel at the “application layer” of AI, building one of the “most innovative AI interfaces ever created.”

Hyperbole aside, Chesky explained that Airbnb doesn’t see itself as an AI infrastructure company — meaning it’s not going to build its own large language models, but will rely on AI technologies from others, like OpenAI, Meta and Google. Instead, the company believes it can create a new interface for accessing modern AI models. That’s something the GamePlanner acquisition could help with.

“…Though the [AI] models are very powerful, the interface is really not an AI interface. It’s the same interface as the 2000s,” Chesky told investors on the company’s fourth-quarter earnings call. “It’s a typical, classical web interface. So we feel like the models, in a sense, are probably underutilized,” he said. “Here’s another way of saying it. Take your phone and look at all the icons on your phone. Most of those apps have not fundamentally changed since the advent of generative AI. So what I think AI represents is the ultimate platform shift,” the CEO continued.

After the internet’s creation, the rise of mobile technology lifted Airbnb’s business, but AI is going to change things once again, Chesky believes. “[This] is also a shift in power. It’s a shift in behavior. And so I think this is a zero-zero ballgame,” he said.

Airbnb plans to leverage AI technology and particularly generative AI to provide a more personalized experience for its users, the exec told investors.

“Imagine an app that you feel like knows you — it’s like the ultimate concierge — an interface that is adaptive and evolving and changing in real-time, unlike no interface you’ve ever seen before. That would allow us to go from a single vertical company to a cross-vertical company,” Chesky added.

Whether or not Airbnb can deliver on these ambitions, of course, remains to be seen. Though Chesky paints a picture of an evolution of the Airbnb user interface, powered by AI, today’s AI systems are often still difficult to use and have a bad habit of returning false information through what are known as hallucinations. That is, the AI bot will simply make things up when it doesn’t know the answer. If the AI models don’t become more accurate under the hood, Airbnb’s plans for application layer improvements could also fall short.

The CEO said he wouldn’t detail specific AI products and services it plans to offer at this time, but the company will make more announcements later this year on the AI front.

Airbnb acquired GamePlanner a few months ago, but it wasn’t clear exactly what the secretive startup did, beyond being tied to AI. Notably, GamePlanner was co-founded by AI pioneer Adam Cheyer, who co-founded Siri (which was sold to Apple), and Siamak Hodjat. In a statement released at the time of the acquisition, Airbnb suggested that the GamePlanner team would help to accelerate the company’s AI projects by integrating its tooling into the Airbnb platform.

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