News Column

Startup Brings Ratings to Hotels Using Artificial Intelligence

August 23, 2013

Nara Logics Inc., a startup whose artificial intelligence technology recommends local restaurants to consumers, has expanded its platform to hotels in 50 cities, including Chicago.

Cambridge, Mass.-based Nara, which describes itself as "a computational neuroscience company," has a Web and iPhone app where consumers can click thumbs-up or thumbs-down on local restaurants. As the company gathers more "digital DNA" from users, its technology maps that information against millions of data points on restaurants -- cuisine, hours, reviews and other characteristics. Nara's algorithm then produces a restaurant recommendation.

The company is applying this technology to hotels and has partnered with Expedia so travelers can book directly through the site, with Nara and Expedia sharing revenue from those bookings. More than 12,000 hotels are available through the Expedia network.

On the restaurant side, Nara has a partnership with Chicago-based GrubHub Seamless that allows diners to order food online from recommended restaurants. Nara first linked up with GrubHub in December 2012, before the Chicago company's August merger with New York-based Seamless. Nara also partners with restaurant reservation site OpenTable.

Nara's creators are neuroscientists and computer scientists, and its chief technology officer, Nathan Wilson, has a doctorate in brain and cognitive sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. If using this kind of scientific muscle to recommend restaurants and hotels sounds like asking Beethoven to compose radio jingles, it's because Nara is treating these consumer-oriented applications as "proof of concept" for much larger ambitions.

"Because what we're doing is so intense and so transformative to the Web and the Internet, we just needed to start somewhere," said Chief Executive Tom Copeman. He added: "We're seeing multiple opportunities, way beyond consumer lifestyle categories, to be solving this problem with search and relevance."

Last month, Nara agreed to license its technology to Asian telecom giant Singapore Telecommunications, and Copeman said the company is looking into health care and financial services applications.

Source: Copyright Chicago Tribune 2013. Distributed by MCT Information Services

Story Tools