Google Says We’re Still a Long Way From Duplex, AI-Powered Robot Calls

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At this year’s Google I/O, Google showcased Duplex, an AI-powered program that users will access through Google Assistant to book reservations for various things over the phone. You simply give Google Assistant a place and time you want booked, then your Assistant will make a call to the business on your behalf.

Recently, Google invited select members of the tech press to get a closer look at Duplex. During this meeting, press members were able to field actual calls from Duplex. For this example, Google had the press act as restaurant employees manning the phones, taking reservation calls from the AI-powered bot caller. According to Arstechnica, Duplex is every bit as awesome as Google showcased during Google I/O, but we learned a bit more about availability and other things.

Google says Duplex is a ways from launch, which we’re sad to report. Here’s exactly what Google said.

“We’re actually quite a long way from launch, that’s the key thing to understand. This is super-early technology, somewhere between technology demo and product. We’re talking about this way earlier than we typically talk about products.”

If this is your first time hearing about Duplex, you’ll want to watch the video below. It differs from the original Duplex we were shown at I/O in a couple of ways, but it’s still cool. At the start of a call, your Assistant will now identify itself as Google Assistant and will also notify the 3rd-party that the call is being recorded. This should get Google past any privacy advocates, not that they’re a bad thing.

You’ll also notice that Duplex sounds very human, even inputting “um” into sentences and pauses when it’s thinking. For me, once the veil is lifted and Assistant is identifying itself as a robot caller in the beginning, the need for these things is gone. If I’m talking to a robot on the other line, I’m not going to be very patient when it starts pausing and throwing out “um” and “uh” just to make itself sound human. I get it, you’re a robot calling me to make a reservation, can we just get on with it? I still think Google’s work here is incredible and once launched will be loved by many, but something about that is irking me.

Because we’re still “quite a way from launch,” we’ll continue to keep you posted on Duplex’s development.

What do you think? Is Duplex something you’re patiently awaiting?

// Arstechnica



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