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Google Duplex is still creepy, but it's ready for the real world

The new Google Duplex demo showed off a more understanding AI system and introduces itself before asking businesses if it is okay to record the call.

Published onJune 27, 2018

  • Google confirmed that it will begin testing Google Duplex in the coming weeks.
  • Duplex now introduces itself and asks businesses if it is okay to record the call.
  • Businesses can opt out during the conversation and humans can take over the call if Duplex makes mistakes.

When Google Duplex debuted in May, you could hear jaws drop. This was the first time anyone had heard artificial intelligence sound so human and so responsive. Even though we have seen very little since, Google dropped another Duplex demo today and gave us more details about the upcoming AI system.

Duplex now introduces itself as such and alerts businesses that the automated call will be recorded. This differs greatly from the Google I/O demo, which did not have Duplex introduce itself or issue an explicit statement that the call was being recorded.

That was a major sticking point for those that questioned the ethics of something like Duplex. Even though Duplex did not pass the Turing test in its I/O demo, the AI system forced people to recognize that robots can make competent phone calls. That led to questions of whether voice-calling bots should identify themselves as a robot, particularly if it sounds as human-like as Duplex does.

Google Duplex is amazing, creepy, and too good to go to waste
Google Assistant making a call

Indeed, the demo up top shows Duplex introducing itself and asking if it could record the call. Businesses can opt out during the conversation if they do not want to receive Duplex calls. They can also choose to not have the calls recorded, which will cause Duplex to call back on an unrecorded line.

In the new demo, Duplex also sounds as human-like as it did in its I/O demo. If you can believe it, the folks behind Duplex’s voices held back a bit back in terms of human mimicry. According to the latest Deepmind blog entry, WaveNet can generate human mouth sounds, such as breathing and making lip smack noises between sentences.

As human-like as Duplex sounds, even an advanced AI system is prone to mistakes. That is why Google built a fallback system that allows a human can take over and finish the call just in case Duplex trips over itself.

For now, Google plans to test the AI system in the coming weeks. Duplex will only ask for store hours at first, though initial cases will involve making hair salon appointments and restaurant reservations.

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