Google Duplex is a new project from Google that is currently live in the majority of the U.S. It allows certain users to make a restaurant reservation by phone, but instead of the user speaking directly to the restaurant employee, Google Duplex, with the help of Google Assistant, speaks for the user with an AI-based, but human sounding, voice.
In this article, we will go into more detail on what Google Duplex is, where it is currently live, what devices work with this service, and finally, we will tell you how to use Google Duplex to make a restaurant reservation.
What is Google Duplex?
Google Duplex was first announced at the Google I/O developers conference in May 2018 by company CEO Sundar Pichai. He showed how the service worked with an AI-driven voice, which was designed to help people make appointments to businesses over the phone, but without any interaction from the user. Pichai’s demo showed the AI voice could not only understand the voice of the human on the other end of the call, but it could respond back with correct answers to that real person’s inquiries and questions as well. Google Duplex’s voice even put in words like “um” and pause breaks to make it sound even more like a real human.
The company later released a video showing how a user would tell Google Assistant to set up a restaurant reservation, and then it showed how the Google Duplex AI voice went into action, as it called the restaurant and interacted with the employee to get the reservation book. After the call was made, Google Assistant sent a notification to the original user stating the reservation was all set up.
In November of 2018, the company announced that Google Duplex was rolling out to a select number of public users in a few U.S. cities. Google put in a few changes to address the security concerns of some users. Those changes include the AI voice system starting the voice call by identifying itself as being from Google. It also tells the receiver of the call that it is being recorded. If the receiver says they don’t want to be recorded, Google Assistant then transfers that call to a non-recorded line.
Where can you use the service?
Google Duplex was available first in Atlanta, New York, Phoenix, and the San Francisco metropolitan area in the fall of 2018. However, in early March 2019, the company expanded the use of Duplex to 43 states in the U.S.
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
Since that announcement, Google Duplex has expanded to five more states, according to its support site:
That means only two U.S. states, Kentucky and Louisiana, currently do not have Google Duplex support.
In October Duplex expanded to its first country outside of the US. Google’s New Zealand unit started a pilot program that will contact a small number of local businesses by phone. They will be asked, via the Duplex AI, to confirm their hours for the upcoming local Labour Day public holiday on October 28. Once the call is complete, the holiday hours will be updated on both Google Maps and Search for those businesses.
What devices support Google Duplex?
Google Duplex was first launched for owners of its Google Pixel, Pixel XL, Pixel 2, Pixel 2 XL, and Pixel 3 and Google Pixel 3 XL phones. More recently, Google Duplex support has started to roll out to any Android devices running version 5.0 or newer. It’s also starting to roll out to Apple’s iPhones that have Google Assistant installed.
What can you do with Google Duplex?
At the moment, the only thing that Pixel phones owners can do with Duplex is to make a reservation at a restaurant. In the future, the AI-based voice service could do a lot more, such as make reservations for your doctor’s appointment or set up a time and day to get your hair cut.
In a related feature, there’s also call screening. It’s not exactly Google Duplex, but it does use Google Assistant to interact with a call — making it obviously somewhat related.
How to use it to make a restaurant reservation
Assuming you own a Pixel phone, and you live in one of the few cities that supports Duplex, you can use it to make a restaurant reservation. Here’s how to use Google Duplex:
- On your Pixel phone, activate Google Assistant by saying “Ok Google” or by tapping and holding down the Home icon.
- Ask Google Assistant to make a breakfast, lunch or dinner reservation. That should be enough to trigger the Duplex service. Asking Assistant to just make a reservation may not be enough to activate Duplex.
- Once you have asked for a reservation, Assistant should give you a list of nearby restaurants. However, not all of them will support being contacted by the Duplex AI voice. It may take a few tries to find one that does support Duplex-based calls (remember, this is still considered a beta test).
- Once you have found a restaurant that does accept Duplex calls, Google Assistant will ask you what day and time would you like to set up at your chosen eatery, along with how many people will be included. It will also ask you for an alternative time frame in case your first choice is not available.
- Finally, you confirm with Assistant to let Duplex make the call to the restaurant.
Duplex’s AI voice should do all the rest, and after it finishes its call, Assistant should inform you within 15 minutes that your restaurant reservation is all set up. If Duplex can’t reach the restaurant, Assistant should inform you of that as well. If for some reason you can’t make it, you can ask Assistant to cancel, and Duplex should then call the restaurant back and tell them to cancel your reservation.
How to use Google Duplex – Limitations
Perhaps the biggest limitation at this early beta stage is that you cannot hear the recording of the Google Duplex calls that’s made on your behalf afterward, nor can you get a written transcript. There’s no word yet if Google will allow Duplex users to get that information in the future.
Also, if you do decide to cancel a reservation, you cannot use Duplex to make another reservation at the same restaurant for at least a day. In fact, if you make reservations at several restaurants using Duplex, and then decide to cancel them, Google will disable your use of Duplex for an unspecified amount of time. Google says these limitations are to prevent Duplex from spamming restaurants with cancelation calls.
Google Duplex on the web
At Google I/O 2019 in May, the company announced plans to expand Duplex to help people fill out forms on the web automatically. It’s called Duplex on the web. This feature will also be limited at first, with Google CEO Sundar Pichai stating it will be used to make car rentals or purchase movie tickets.
In the case of a car rental, the example of an upcoming trip stored in Google Calendar was used. A person could ask Google Assistant to set up a car rental, and Duplex then goes into action. It sees your upcoming trip, and fills out the car rental form using the calendar dates that are stored for the trip. It then recommends a car for the rental, based on your previous rentals, and also fills out other forms automatically. Users will still have the option to make changes and corrections to Duplex’s forms before the final rental is made.
In October, Duplex on the web started rolling out in the US. At the moment, it is only being used to help in buying movie tickets. If you use Google Search to buy those tickets, it will give users a way to purchase them via Google Assistant. From here, Duplex takes over, as a persistent Google Assistant overlay is placed on top of the ticket site. After you select how many tickets you want to buy, the Assistant overlay handles the actual purchase, using your stored payment information.
We will be updating this article as needed when and if Google Duplex expands to more locations and devices, and it is used for more services. Have you used Google Duplex to make a restaurant reservation? If so, leave us your impressions in the comments!