Announced at this year’s I/O developer conference, Google Duplex is a new Assistant feature that can carry out specific tasks for you over the phone. It can make a reservation at your favorite restaurant, schedule an appointment at a hair salon, or call businesses to check their opening hours.
All you have to do is launch Google Assistant on your phone and say something like, “Book a table for two at Luigi’s Pizza at 8 pm today,” and Duplex will do the rest. The AI feature will ring the pizza place and make a reservation in a natural, human-like voice. After the call, you’ll get a notification on your phone confirming the reservation.
Google demonstrated the technology during its I/O keynote, and it blew my mind. The tech giant played two recordings of calls made to a restaurant and a hair salon, showing how the feature works in action — check them out in the video below.
The jury is still out on the authenticity of the two calls. Although Google CEO Sundar Pichai said the first recording played is “Assistant calling a real hair salon,” it’s possible the whole thing was staged — learn more here.
Google Duplex — the good and bad
What makes Google Duplex impressive is that it sounds like a real person with natural pauses and speech disfluencies like “hmm” and “umm,” which people generally use to gather their thoughts — Assistant doesn’t sound like a robot in those calls. Assistant also understands the context of conversations. So when a call doesn’t go as expected, as in the second example where the restaurant employee was not a native English speaker, Assistant still got the job done.
Google Duplex could be a lifesaver for travelers who don't speak the local language well.
Google Duplex can seriously boost productivity. It’s a great tool for those too busy to deal with less important tasks like booking a hair salon appointment. It’s also great for people who struggle with hearing problems or phone anxiety (yes, that’s a real thing). Even better, the feature could be a lifesaver for travelers or people who don’t speak the local language well.
Although Google Duplex seems like a fantastic feature with the potential to make our lives easier, it’s also a bit creepy. Talking to a robot that sounds like a real person is not something most people are excited about. Some argue Duplex should identify itself as a robot when making a call, which is apparently exactly what Google plans on doing. The company told CNET the feature would make sure it was “appropriately identified” in conversations with people.
Another issue is whether Google should get permission to record calls using Duplex. Laws regarding this vary from state to state, and it looks like the company doesn’t have a clear idea on how to handle that just yet.
Google Duplex may not always work as perfectly as in the two calls shown by Google. The software is trained to handle many scenarios, but eventually it will surely come across one it doesn’t know how to handle. Google knows this, which is why it equipped Google Duplex with a “self-monitoring capability” to recognize the tasks it can’t complete autonomously. When it runs into a problem, it will ask you to step in and help, which could become a bigger burden than making the call on your own in the first place. Until the technology is released and tested, we have no idea what its success rate will be.
When will Google Duplex be available?
Google said it will start testing Duplex this summer, focusing first on making restaurant reservations, scheduling hair salon appointments, and getting holiday hours over the phone. We assume the feature will get smarter over time and become capable of taking on other tasks as well.
There’s no word on when the software will officially release. It will likely only work in English at first, with support for other languages hopefully coming soon after.
Google Duplex is a complicated technology. The company has to make sure it works as advertised before releasing it, otherwise, it will do more harm than good. Depending on how far the development of Duplex is, it’s possible we’ll have to wait for quite some time before it hits our devices.
What do you think about Google Duplex? Will you try it out once it becomes available, or is it too creepy for your taste?
Sound off in the comments!