Siri's 'cousin' Desti offers tips to iPad users on hotel and restaurant recommendations, ideas for day trips, family vacations and more.

Is it an app or a live travel agent? Desti is from the makers of Siri, and hot from South by Southwest Interactive in Austin, Texas.

Name: Desti

Available for: iPad

What it does: Provides answers to questions you'd ask a travel agent, such as suggestions for kid-friendly restaurants near your hotel or girlfriend getaway ideas at five-star hotels with spas in San Francisco.

One of the most noticeable, emergent themes at this year’s SXSW Interactive conference is a new frontier for the user experience, with numerous panels and product-launches focused on revolutionizing the ways people interact with their devices. At a panel Monday afternoon in the Austin Convention Center, leaders in the field of artificial intelligence gave a glimpse into the future of consumer relationships with increasingly intelligent gadgets.
“I tend to think of AI as going beyond the obvious,” said Nadav Gur, co-founder and CEO of Desti, a smart travel and search app. “If devices can get better at knowing what the user means and in what context, that to me is artificial intelligence.”


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Another hot category is personal assistants. For instance, there's Charlie, an app that helps people "kick ass in their meetings and calls," according to Aaron Frazin, co-founder and CEO. Charlie does so by connecting to your calendar and prepping you on the people and companies that you are meeting with. Tempo, meanwhile, applies artificial intelligence to your calendar to make your entries more detailed and much more useful. Desti applies AI to travel queries. That app is only available in a few cities at the moment, but the company plans to expand. Finally, CityBot creates a personal itinerary for you when you enter a new city.

Hundreds of app developers, startup CEOs, and tech reporters will descend on Austin’s SXSW this week to share companies and technologies that want to do everything from solve world hunger to organize saved reading lists.

Of those, only 64 finalists and alternatives will be showcased at the SXSW Interactive Accelerator. We’ve picked out the following eight finalists from the news, social, mobile, and innovative web categories with the potential to impact the way we travel:

Desti is a travel discovery and planning iPad app. Users enter natural language queries like “four days in San Francisco with the kids” and the app highlights activities and hotels based on users’ specific searches.


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2. Desti, a new type of travel search engine

Think Pinterest meets TripAdvisor--Desti helps people plan trips easier. Within the app, users can search a destination--say, Monterey Bay. Desti then pulls up local hotels and attractions, and lets users sort by a variety of categories, like whether or not an activity is kid-friendly or "romantic." This is Desti's main value over its competitors, which typically only let users search by one or two criteria--and then save collections. "Our mission is to make travel planning as fun and painless as possible," the company notes. The company was founded in Menlo Park, California, in 2011 by Imri Goldberg and Nadav Gur, and has raised nearly $2 million in seed funding from Horizons Ventures.  

Desti is a virtual travel agent for the iPad that was developed out of SRI International, the same prestigious research institute that spawned virtual personal assistant Siri. The technology combines Artificial Intelligence and natural language processing to understand and respond to specific travel-related search queries.

I covered Desti’s open beta launch in November when the service became available in Northern California. At the time, founder Nadav Gur explained that Desti’s database gets smarter and more comprehensive as more people use it. Now, the company has raised an additional $1 million in seed money from its original investors to widen its scope.

Since Apple introduced Siri last year, millions of people have become familiar with the intelligent personal assistant and knowledge navigator.

Now, another artificial intelligence app that uses a natural language user interface is on the scene.

This one is an iPad app called Desti, and it serves as a travel discovery and planning tool, focused initially on Northern California.

Desti joins the ranks of travel startups claiming to be on the path to “travel nirvana” with their Siri-spawned travel inspiration and planning iPad app.

Currently only available for the San Francisco Bay area, Desti promises to bring the technology behind Apple’s vaunted virtual personal assistant Siri to the travel space.

Using both natural language intelligence and semantic search, Desti allows users to ask questions to the app and receive real responses based on those questions.

Call it a first-world problem, but many of us know what it’s like to spend hours poring over Web sites — and these days, mobile apps — to put together a travel itinerary.

Desti, a free mobile app that’s launching in beta form today, wants to combine natural language search with artificial intelligence technology to make the whole thing easier.


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iPad app Desti – only available in the US for now – is getting American tech blogs excited this week: "Siri for travel" seems to be the most common press reaction. What that means is an app providing travel recommendations, using natural language processing technology to respond to questions about "lodging, attractions or restaurants". For now, it covers Northern California only.

Research institute SRI International has spawned companies including Apple’s virtual assistant Siri and smart news reader Trapit. Today the latest company to launch out of SRI, Desti, announced its free travel discovery and planning app for iPad. While travel discovery is crowded with both mobile and web-based tools, Desti is trying to take an artificial intelligence approach to helping people plan their trips and discover new places around the world.

CEO Nadav Gur was formerly the founder and CEO of WorldMate, a mobile travel planning platform that was acquired by Carlson Wagonlit in October 2012. Gur said Desti’s smart travel guide is designed to save travelers from having to search multiple travel sites for flights, restaurants, and other on-the-ground activities, and to help them converse with the app like they would with a travel agent, asking questions and searching for keywords.

When planning a trip, it is easy to get tangled in a mess of referrals, reviews, and recommendations. If only there was a personal assistant who could listen to my needs and find me exactly what I was looking for. Now, for iPad owners, there is.

Desti is not just another travel app. It is a virtual tour guide that uses Artificial Intelligence and natural language processing to comprehend and respond to specific queries.

SRI International has produced some remarkable technologies over the years, with the more recent notables including Siri, Trapit, Nuance, and many others. Today, another one of Siri’s siblings launches into public beta and it hopes to help make travel planning and discovery much smarter.

Desti is calling itself the smartest travel guide available for the iPad. Since 2011, this startup has utilized similar artificial intelligence technology similar to Siri, but instead of being all-knowing about everything, it’s focused on one vertical: travel. In its public beta period, the app will be able to help plan trips and experiences for just the Northern California region.

Desti, a spin out from SRI International, is trying to become a smart travel guide that uses natural language processing, semantic search and travel specific knowledge base to give users recommendation.

Apple’s Siri works pretty well as a personal assistant but it’s not equipped to be your virtual travel guide. But Desti which, like Siri, is a spin out from SRI International, is launching today in public beta and is looking to take on that job for consumers.

Call it a first-world problem, but many of us know what it’s like to spend hours poring over Web sites — and these days, mobile apps — to put together a travel itinerary.

Desti, a free mobile app that’s launching in beta form today, wants to combine natural language search with artificial intelligence technology to make the whole thing easier.

There’s no shortage of travel guides and services on the web, but in some ways, that can be a curse — travel-planning can become a long process of browsing site after site and reading review after review. That’s where a startup called Desti comes in.

The company emerged last year from SRI International, the research institute where Siri was developed before it spun out into an independent company and then eventually acquired by Apple. Like Siri (as well as other SRI projects, including banking-focused Lola) Desti is designed to function as a virtual personal assistant — in this case, an assistant focused on travel.