Google Duplex is a new project from Google that is currently live in the majority of the US. It allows certain users to make a restaurant reservation by phone. However, instead of the user speaking directly to the restaurant employee, Google Duplex, with the help of Google Assistant, speaks for the user. It does this with an AI-based, but human-sounding, voice. It’s also being used to speed up paying for movie tickets online.
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 reservation or to pay for a movie ticket.
What is 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 U.S. 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 48 states in the US according to its support site. Only two US states, Kentucky and Louisiana, currently do 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 recent report from VentureBeat indicated that Duplex may soon expand to the UK, Australia, and Canada.
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 or purchase movie tickets online. In the future, the AI-based voice service could do a lot more. Examples include making 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 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 Pixel 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 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 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 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 Movietickets.com in the US as well as Odeon in the UK.
We will be updating this article as needed when 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!