Travelling around Japan without being able to speak Japanese can be difficult, as English proficiency in the country tends to be low, particularly outside of the capital Tokyo. Last year the country was ranked 49th in a ranking of major countries and regions on English proficiency, below Russia, South Korea and China, according to The Asahi Shimbun.
Fortunately for non-Japanese speaking travellers flying into Sendai, the city’s airport is now running a three-month trial of an AI-powered chatbot to assist English-speaking travellers until the end of September.
The chatbot, called Bebot, serves as a digital travel concierge using AI (artificial intelligence) technology. Travellers are connected to Bebot in their browser automatically when they use the airport’s free wifi, without the need to download any additional apps.
Once connected to the chatbot, travellers can ask travel-related questions such as airport information, as well as information about local attractions, transportation options, restaurant and event recommendations, and ways to get to other areas in Japan.
Sendai is in the centre of the Tohoku region and is the largest city in northeastern Japan. The city can be reached within one and a half hours from Tokyo by Shinkansen, Japan’s high-speed rail system. Thai Airways will launch a three-times-weekly service between Bangkok and Sendai beginning late October.
Bebot, developed by Tokyo-based AI technology developer Bespoke, supports both text and voice input, and is free for tourists. Travellers can also access Bebot at Tokyo Narita International Airport, JR Tokyo Station, Hotel New Otani in Tokyo, and on the Izu Craile resort train.