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What is Google Duplex and how do you use it?
Google Duplex is an unusual AI technology active in the (most) of the US, as well as a select group of countries around the world. At first it was narrowly focused on restaurant reservations, but its use has since expanded to other tasks.
In this article we’ll explain Google Duplex in detail, telling you where it’s live, and which devices it supports. Finally, we’ll tell you how to use 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 was first announced by CEO Sundar Pichai during the May 2018 Google I/O developers conference. He showed how the service used an AI-driven voice to make phone appointments without any interaction from the user. Not only was the AI able to understand someone on the other end of the line, but it was also able to respond with correct answers to questions, and insert “ums” and pause breaks to make itself sound more like a real human.
Google later released a video demonstrating how users could tell Google Assistant to set up a restaurant reservation. After the call in the video is made, Assistant sends a notification, letting the user know that a reservation is booked.
In November 2018 the company announced that Google Duplex was rolling out to a select number of public users in a few US cities. Changes were made to address controversies, however, namely forcing Assistant to identify itself, as well as inform call recipients that they’re being recorded. Businesses can opt-out of Duplex entirely.
Beginning in 2019 Google introduced a variety of Duplex features to the web (more on this later), expanding its overall functionality.
Where can you use Duplex?
Google Duplex works in 49 US states, according to Google’s support site. Only Louisiana is holding out.
Outside the US, supported countries currently include:
- New Zealand
- United Kingdom
Which devices support Google Duplex?
Google Duplex was first launched for owners of Google’s Pixel, Pixel XL, Pixel 2, Pixel 2 XL, and Pixel 3 and 3 XL phones. Now, though, the feature should be available on any device with the Google Assistant app and access to Search or Maps. That’s quite a spectrum, including both Android devices and iPhones.
What can you do with Google Duplex?
At the moment, Duplex features include assisted retail checkout, assisted airline check-in, restaurant reservations, buying food or movie tickets online, setting up haircuts, holding in a phone queue, or help with compromised passwords. In the future, the service could do a lot more, since Google is only really limited by the power of its AI.
A minor feature is the ability to check business hours, but since regular times are often listed in Google Search or Maps results, the option is only really useful during holidays or emergencies. In some cases, you may be able to get inventory status for in-demand products.
Note that appointment bookings and checking restaurant wait times will only work in the US so far, and access to other features can vary from region to region. Some features are limited to Duplex on the web (see below), or even the Android platform, as is the case with checkout and password help.
How to use Duplex to make a restaurant reservation
If you live in a supported region, you probably have all you need to make a reservation. Here’s how:
- On your phone, activate Google Assistant. iPhone owners will have to open the appropriate app.
- Ask Assistant to make a breakfast, lunch, or dinner reservation. That should trigger Duplex. Notably, just asking Assistant to make a reservation may not be enough.
- Assistant should give you a list of nearby restaurants, though not all of them will support Duplex. It may take a few tries to find one that does.
- Once you’ve found a restaurant, Assistant will ask you what day and time you’d like, along with how many people will be coming. It will also ask you for an alternative time in case your first isn’t available.
- Finally, confirm that you want to make the call.
Duplex’s AI should do all the rest. After it finishes, Assistant will inform you within 15 minutes that your reservation is set up. If Duplex can’t reach the restaurant, Assistant will let you know that, too.
If for some reason you have to cancel, you can ask Assistant and Duplex will call the restaurant back.
How to use Duplex to set up a haircut
Haircut support was quietly added in 2020 (now there’s a phrase). Here’s how to book a snip:
- On your phone, look up your stylist’s location in either Google Search or Maps, 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 and time info.
- Select whether you’ve been to that stylist’s location before, and you can optionally name a specific stylist.
- Enter your contact information (name, email address, and phone number).
That’s it. Duplex should then call the stylist and set up your appointment.
Hold For Me
Powered by Google Duplex, Hold For Me can keep your place in a phone queue while you go about your business. When someone finally speaks, the feature will let you know that it’s time to talk again.
Hold For Me is currently only available in English, and only for the US, Australia, and Canada. You’ll also need a Pixel 3 or later, since the feature is linked to Android’s Phone app. You may have to enable the feature in Phone settings for it to appear as an option, and you’ll need to take your phone out of silent or vibrate mode.
Be aware that Hold For Me can potentially miss when a representative comes on the line. If a call is mission-critical, you may want to stick it out.
How to use Google Duplex — Limitations
Perhaps the biggest limitation is that you can’t hear the recordings of calls Duplex makes on your behalf, nor can you get a written transcript. There’s no word yet if Google will let people get that information in the future.
Also, if you decide to cancel a restaurant reservation, you can’t use Duplex to make another reservation at the same place for at least a day. In fact, if you make reservations at several restaurants and then decide to cancel them, Google will disable your use of Duplex for an unspecified amount of time. Google says these limitations prevent harmful spam. Similar caps may be imposed on other appointment types.
Google Duplex on the web
Duplex on the web started rolling out in the US in October 2019, helping with tasks like movie tickets. If you use Google Search on your phone, it will give you a way to buy tickets via Assistant. From there Duplex takes over, becoming a persistent overlay on the ticket site. Once you select how many tickets to buy, the overlay handles the actual purchase, using your stored payment information. It works with with brands like AMC, Fandango, MJR Theaters, and Movietickets.com in the US, as well as Odeon in the UK.
Other web-based functions include assisted retail checkout, assisted airline check-in, online food orders, and automated password changes. Check Google’s website for a rundown of the latest features and their restrictions.
Fix a compromised online password
During Google I/O 2021, the company announced that Duplex features were being used for a new feature in its Password Manager system. Chrome users on Android will see a Change Password button generated by Google Assistant if the company believes a user-created password has been compromised. When users tap or click on the button, Assistant and Duplex will automatically guide them through the process of creating a new password for that account.
Not every region or website may support the feature, but Google has worked to fill in gaps, so there’s a strong chance your favorite sites are covered.
Read more: The guide to Google Assistant