"Alexa, play..." isn't an uncommon phrase in this modern world. A popular family gadget, the digital assistant (or smart speaker) is a piece of voice-activated software that can carry out a range of tasks based on what you ask it. You can ask the device to play your favourite song, check the weather or call a friend. But what about booking tickets for your favourite show...?

a picture of a google home AI digital assistant

It’s already been half a decade since Amazon’s Alexa first hit the shops and since then they have shipped over 100 million devices (as of January 2019). Despite a flurry of scandals ranging from reports of Alexa sending peoples audio to complete strangers to accusations that the digital assistant reinforces sexual biases the growth of users starting to use digital assistants is still not showing any signs of slowing.

Consumers are using these digital assistants for everything from playing music to checking the weather and of course even purchasing items. It’s not just Amazon that is in the digital assistant market, all the tech giants all have their own branded device. Apple has Siri, Google has Google Now, Microsoft has Cortana and even the likes of Samsung and Blackberry are getting in on the action.

However, people using these devices to make purchases is still pretty low, with less than 30% of consumers using the technology to shop.

This doesn’t really come as a surprise when you break down the complexity of buying something online. First you have to search for the item that you want, you might want to know information about it, compare it with a similar product, compare it with yet another product, add it to the basket, review that basket and finally make the transaction. Now think about the process of buying tickets to a show. Sure, you are probably cutting out the comparison process but you will probably have the extra level of complication of actually selecting seats.

Google however may have the answer to the solution with their Duplex AI. Initially announced back in 2018 the idea behind it is to allow users to conduct real-world tasks by interacting with an AI using natural conversation. The hold back just now is that Duplex requires to be deeply trained in individual domains. For example, for us to be able to book tickets to the ballet next week it will require it to be trained to have that conversation.

The good news is that Google has already begun to roll out this functionality for movie theatres. The number of theatres that Duplex is compatible with is still rather limited and it appears that the only UK based cinema theatre to adopt Duplex is Odeon. However, we should certainly expect more theatres such as Cineworld and VUE to follow.

old fashioned theatre tickets

Once these tech giants have conquered the ability to book movie tickets we will no doubt see this functionality trickle down to other theatre performances and live music venues because let’s face it the difference between booking tickets to the latest Marvel blockbuster is not really that much different to booking tickets for the current Les Misérables production.

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