Exploring the use of voice assistant in Airbnb when the host is not present

Project Overview

As a part of this project, we explored a use case for Airbnb in which a voice user interface can play an important role in welcoming the guests and make them feel like home when the host is not present.

Team members: Tony Wang, Shuangni Huang, Marvin Kennis

Role: Scenario design. Dialogue flow modeling. Video storyline

Duration: 3 weeks

Few dialogue edits

Since I worked on this project with my team, I spent a lot of time reading VUI books and talking to experts in this domain. Based on what I learned from them, I made a couple of edits in the dialogue (not reflected in the video yet).

(00:54) Bélo: Please ask me anything you would ask Lizzie.
(Too formal)

Prompt idea 1: You can ask me any questions that you would have otherwise asked Lizzie.

Prompt idea 2: If you need, I can help you turn on the lights in any room, adjust the temperature, recommend places in the neighborhood, or give you the house tour.
(Setting expectations for the user on what he can and cannot say)


(1:16) Bélo: Sorry! I’m not sure what you mean
What is it that you’d like to have?
(Guiding the user so that he can rephrase his answer better)


(1:39-1:48) James: Ah! It’s so warm in here.
Hey Belo! It’s really warm in here.
(We don’t want Bélo listening in on the entire conversation, privacy issue!)
Bélo: Do you want me to turn down the temperature?
James: No, it’s fine!
Yeah sure!
Bélo: Alright then! Sweet dreams James.
Okay! Turning down the temperature to seventy two degrees.


"I can't get in touch with my host.What should I do?"

"What do I do if my Airbnb host is not responding to messages or calls?”

Host unavailability is a major concern for Airbnb guests

We interviewed people who stayed at Airbnb in the past. Several mentioned feeling discomfort during at least one Airbnb stay due to communication issues with the host. We checked questions posted by Airbnb users on Q&A platforms like Quora, Reddit and Airbnb forums. A large number of Airbnb users had questions related to the non-availability of their hosts.


From booking to check-out





The model showcases Bélo’s pre-attentive and attentive states at various points in the conversation. Bélo is mindful of the environmental triggers and the guests’ utterances. It uses them as a prompt to either initiate a conversation with the guests or respond to their queries. This model also showcases Bélo’s robust error recovery feature.


To gain an understanding of whether our scenario and our conversation design create an integrated experience between the guest and Bélo, we asked our colleagues to enact our scenarios. This helped us in pointing out awkward silence, abrupt conversation transitions and the importance of correct voice tone that Bélo should use.

Edit: A better idea for WOz testing, in this case, would be using a voice coming from a mobile phone to represent Bélo instead of a person playing the role of Bélo. Humans behave differently when talking to machines. It would have been interesting to capture those behaviors.




  • At times when the host is not available to receive the guests, Bélo comforts the anxious guests by making them feel like they belong to that place and smoothens the check-in process.
  • Bélo provides her guests a unique travel experience by not only being present at their service all the time but also helping them explore the city by giving local recommendations.


  • Airbnb connects travelers with local hosts in hopes of providing unique travel experiences but host may not always be present to attend their guests. In these scenarios, Bélo is their savior.
  • Unlike traditional hotels, Airbnb hosts do not have the help of hotel staff or other workers. Bélo is always at their command.