It’s Here! Google Duplex

Currently Targeted to specific tasks.

Google Duplex is currently directed towards completing specific tasks, such as scheduling appointments. And while doing so, the system tries to make the conversation feel as natural as possible, allowing people to speak normally, as though they were interacting with another person and not with an AI. How this works is the interesting part, though, for Google Duplex to work the way it is intended, the system must be able to do several things: The system needs to understand what the person on the other side of the phone is saying, figure out what it means, and decide if what the person is offering will work for you or not. How the system can do this is even more amusing.

Google Duplex Development

Development was initially announced in 2016. The first trials in the development stage featured the metallic-sounding voice, which everyone associates with robocalls, and the reactions were predictably unfavorable. In fact, businesses did not want to deal with such calls, and most of the time, they hang up. Hence, to gain trust from the humans conversing with Duplex, developers employed speech disfluencies, non-verbal communication such as “Uhm” and “hmm.” Other innovations in the development of humanized speech were elaborations (“for Friday next week, the 18th.”), syncs (“can you hear me?”), and interruptions (“the number is 212-” “sorry, can you start over?”).

Google Duplex Demo & Rollout

Google showed a demo of this new system at Google I/O 2018, in which it became the talk of many people around the world of technology. One of them was Jerry Hildenbrand from androidcentral.com, who wrote an article about Google’s demo, “What is Google Duplex?”. During the demo, Google had the new “Assistant” call a hair salon to set up an appointment for them; the person on the other side of the phone seems to have thought it was talking to an actual person instead of an AI.

2019

By Spring 2019, it became available to a large number of Android and iPhone customers. Booking restaurant reservations, making hair appointments, and checking holiday hours were the only options available. By this point, Duplex was still dependent on human supervision: 25% of the calls made by Duplex started with a human from a call center, whereas 15% of those initiated by AI had to be taken up by the employees at the call center, to complete the conversation.

2020

In the spring of 2020, Google deployed Duplex to make calls to small businesses asking them to update their listings for hours of operation and note closures due to COVID restrictions. During the global pandemic, the rising number of infected cases prompted local governments to issue safeguards such as limiting store operations to curbside pickups. Customers became restricted to calling stores and asking for inventory before ordering an item for pickup. When stores opened for limited capacity, it became necessary to avoid getting in long lines for a product that wasn’t available. Google adapted to these challenges by offering a Duplex option to inquire about product availability in a particular store.

What is AI (Artificial Intelligence)

What does this new AI mean to the world, then? As innovative as Google Duplex might be, there is a lot of controversy about what it entitles to have an AI capable of recreating human speech as accurately as Google Duplex can. This comes as no surprise because of how amazing this AI could be. If you were to look up Google Duplex, two things seem always to show up:

How does a conversation with AI work?

AI conversations are limited in specific reasoning patterns. When given an unclear or misguiding answer, the AI rephrases or repeats the question. These are preprogrammed gambits, meaning that Duplex picks up only on a set of answers that fit within the answer they’re looking for (the opposite applies when Duplex is on the receiving end of questions).

Background of AI

statista.com

Concerns

Future of Google Duplex

Duplex is clearly a feature that will stay, master its functions and expand the domain of possibilities. Google is currently piloting a feature that enables shopping and food ordering for faster checkouts. Another announced task that Duplex will perform for the wide public will be renting cars.

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Visualwebz

Visualwebz

118 Followers

A Seattle web design and online marketing agency that delivers high-end websites. A passion for web development and SEO.