Update, May 23, 2019 (02:34 PM ET): Google clarified for us how Duplex works when it comes to handing off tasks to a human rather than a bot.

According to Google, the system will verify a variety of details to determine whether a human should call or if it can take care of the call on its own. These factors include a name check (does the name of the reservation sound like spam or a prank?), a phone number check (is the number not from the U.S.?), and a check of the restaurant’s affiliations (is the restaurant in a hotel?). If Assistant determines that something isn’t on the level, it will hand off the task to a human who will make the final call.

Google also said that calls are conducted by a bot roughly 75 percent of the time.


Original article, May 23, 2019 (01:16 PM ET): When Google revealed Google Duplex at Google I/O 2018, the audience was stunned by Google Assistant conversing with a human to make a restaurant reservation. It all seemed so futuristic.

Remarkably, in less than a year’s time, Google Duplex is now available on many Android and iOS smartphones across the United States. However, according to The New York Times, the supposedly-automated phone calls are not always conducted by a robot.

Apparently, some calls are placed by humans working with call centers. Humans are used to intervene when a Google Assistant-based call goes awry or if Google Duplex doesn’t have enough information about a business to know whether or not it accepts reservations.

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In an example used in the NYT article, a Google Duplex call was conducted by a man with an Irish accent. He called a Thai restaurant to make a dinner reservation for two. The entire call was conducted by the man without Google Assistant ever getting involved.

According to Google, this call was placed by a human because there wasn’t enough information available on the Thai restaurant to know if it even accepted reservations.

Elsewhere in the NYT article, three-out-four test restaurant bookings the reporters initiated were made entirely by humans. However, the one call that was performed solely by Google Assistant went exceptionally well.

“Everything was perfect,” said the waiter who took the completely automated call. “It’s like a real person talking.”

At Google I/O 2019, the company revealed that Duplex would soon be available on the web to deal with the hassle of filling out online forms. It is not clear whether or not Google will also partially depend on humans for this task. We’ve reached out to the company for more info on Duplex.

NEXT: What is Google Duplex and how do you use it?