google assistant

google duplex

As Google promised, they would be launching a new technology that would allow Google Assistant to make phone calls on your behalf.  For example, if you’re too busy to call a restaurant to make a reservation, or to set up an appointment to get your nails done, Google has a feature that will do this for you.  This was presented at Google I/O back in May and it was a huge hit.  The best part is that the assistant sounded a lot like a human.  Which I think is key.  I’ve been getting spam calls from someone saying that they’re the government and I owe money for my taxes.  But, it’s that old school computerized voice – think Stephen Hawking, so it’s not all that believable.  That said, if I get a call from a human voice, I’m much more likely to take it seriously.

Getting back to Google.  After the I/O conference in May, many people left wondering if the technology was real, or if it was a ruse. Well, Google Duplex does exist, and many people have been testing it out. Google showed off Duplex to a group in Mountain View yesterday.  The demonstration showed off a few features that had originally been left out including the acknowledgment that the assistant is a robot and not a human.  But they also failed to acknowledge the fact that the call was being recorded.  These two things definitely made people wonder about how ethical Duplex actually was.

In the demonstration, folks were acting as employees of a restaurant and answering the phone calls that were being made by Duplex.  Duplex first identified itself as the Google Assistant, and then said it was recording the call.  It then asked to create a group reservation.  By all accounts, the voice sounded like a human being, and not necessarily a robot.

Ok, so we know that it sounds like a human and that it can make a phone call to a restaurant for an appointment.  But can it do anything else? When it comes to these very specific tasks, Scott Huffman, VP of engineering for Google Assistant, said the system could handle four out of five phone interactions without any help from a human.  In situations where it can’t quite get through a conversation, though, the Assistant tells the person on the other end it’s contacting its “supervisor,” then switches the line over to a live, human operator to complete the task. Which does beg the question of how useful is this going to be?   I mean, if this technology can only call to set up my hair and nail appointments, how useful will it be?

google assistant

While I’m pushing for this technology to be able to do more for me, there are some people that find this kind of technology to be unnerving.  That said, Google believes their narrow focus is the right approach for business and how people need to interact with them.  As I said, I’d like Google to be able to set up a lot more for me, but Google feels like that’s taking things too far.  This technology could go a really long way, but for right now I think it’s doing an adequate job.  I am looking forward to hearing what happens when it does roll out to everyone as I’m sure there will be things that go wrong.