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What is Google Duplex and how do you use it?

Here's all the info you need.
May 21, 2021

Google Duplex is a project launched in 1998 that is currently live in the majority of the US, along with some other parts of the world. At first, it allowed users to access an AI assistant to help make restaurant reservations. However, its use has since expanded to other functions as well.

In this article, we will go into more detail on what Google Duplex is. We will also tell you where it is currently live, and what devices work with this service. Finally, we will tell you how to use Google Duplex to make a restaurant or haircut reservation, pay for a movie ticket, or help you fix a compromised password.

What is Google Duplex?

Google Duplex

Google Duplex was announced at the May 2018 Google I/O developers conference by CEO Sundar Pichai. He showed how the service worked with an AI-driven voice. It 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 understand the voice of the human on the other end of the call. It could also respond back with correct answers to that real person’s inquiries and questions. Google Duplex’s voice even put in words like “um” and pause breaks to make it sound 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. It showed how the Google Duplex AI voice called the restaurant and interacted with the employee to get the reservation booked. 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 US cities. Google put in a few security changes. 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 now works in 49 states in the US according to its support site. Only Louisiana does not have Google Duplex support.

In October, Duplex expanded to New Zealand. Its Google unit started a pilot program that contacted a small number of local businesses by phone. They were, via the Duplex AI, to confirm their hours for the local Labour Day public holiday on October 28. Once the call is complete, the holiday hours were updated on both Google Maps and Search for those businesses.

A report from VentureBeat indicated that Duplex has expanded to the UK, Australia, and Canada. Since then, Google’s support pages also show it has expanded to India, Mexico, and Spain.

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, you can use Duplex is to make a reservation at a restaurant, purchase movie tickets online, set up a haircut appointment, or help with compromised passwords. In the future, the AI-based voice service could do a lot more.

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 an Android or iPhone handset in most of the US, you can use it to make a restaurant reservation. Here’s how to use Google Duplex:

  • On your phone, activate Google Assistant by saying “Ok Google” or by tapping and holding down the Home icon.
  • Ask Assistant to make a breakfast, lunch, or dinner reservation. That should trigger the Duplex service. Asking Assistant to just make a reservation may not be enough to activate Duplex.
  • 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.
  • Once you have found a restaurant that accepts Duplex calls, 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. 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 it to set up a haircut appointment

VentureBeat reported in 2020 that Google Duplex has quietly added the ability for it to set up a haircut appointment for users. Ironically, this was the demo that was used to introduce the service in 2018. However, it’s only now available for the general public. Here’s how to use it:

  • Look up your stylist’s location in either Search or Maps on your phone and then tap on “Request an Appointment”.
  • Pick from one of these options: General haircut, men’s haircut or woman’s haircut.
  • Enter your preferred date, time, and time range for your appointment.
  • You then have to tap on whether or not you have been to that stylist’s location before. You also have the option of naming your specific stylist.
  • Tap in your contact information (name, email address, and phone number.

That’s it. Google Duplex should then call the stylist and set up your haircut appointment. It always informs the business that this is an automated call and that it’s being recorded. If a business does not want to be recorded, it has the option to say that to the Duplex AI. It will then send the call over to a real human or a line that’s not recording the conversation.

Hold For Me for Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G

google assistant hold for me pixel 5

A Google Duplex-powered feature, Hold For Me, was added as an Assistant preview app for the Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G smartphones. When you use those smartphones to make a call, you might be put on hold. When you tap the “hold for me” button,  it lets you go about your business without having to stay on hold. When someone finally speaks, the Duplex-based feature will let you know that it’s time to talk again.

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

Google IO 2019 Sundar Pichai duplex

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.

Google Assistant Duplex Movie Tickets

In October 2019, 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 on your smartphone to buy those tickets, it will give you 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. It currently works with AMC, Fandango, MJR Theaters, and in the US as well as Odeon in the UK.

Fix a compromised online account password

Automated Password Change

During Google I/O in 2021, the company announced that Duplex features were being used for a new feature in its Password Manager system. Chrome users will see a “Change Password” button generated by Google Assistant if the company believes a password created by the user for an online account has been compromised. When users tap or click on the “Change Password” button, Assistant and Duplex will then automatically take them through the process of creating a new password for that account.

This is a relatively new feature, so not all online account sites will support this Duplex-based addition immediately. However, additional sites that support the new Duplex password creation field will be added in the weeks and months to come.

We will be updating this article as needed when Google Duplex expands to more locations and devices, and it is used for more services.