Google Duplex, the Google Assistant-powered voice calling feature for making appointment and reservations on your behalf, gets public testing in the real world. At I/O 2018, Google showed a stunning yet creepy demo of its digital assistant making reservations and booking appointments via phone call. The demo led to a widespread furor around ethical use of AI and whether Google will reveal that the human-sounding voice is actually of an AI assistant.
Now, Google has gone ahead and showed the technology to select journalists in a restaurant in Mountain View, California. According to CNET, the search giant plans to start public trial with a small group of ‘trusted testers’ and businesses that have opted into receiving calls from Duplex. During the initial phase of testing, Google Duplex will make phone calls on user’s behalf only to confirm hours.
It will get support for making reservations later this summer followed by support for making hair cut appointments. The first real demo at a restaurant two-and-a-half-miles away from its corporate campus shows Google is ready to address the questions surrounding the demo. Soon after the demo at I/O 2018 last month, there were speculation that it was not real calls and were edited by the company.
Now, Google is coming clean by saying that the demo was edited to remove personal information and they were indeed all real calls. Google is also addressing the ethical question surrounding impersonation of humans by an artificially intelligent bot interface. Google says businesses that don’t want to receive calls from Google Assistant can opt out during the conversation or by indicating their lack of interest through a businesses online account.
Google says it is implementing protections against spam or abuse of the platform but did not share specifics. One of the major design element here is that Duplex will give out information but only the ones it is authorized to share. As ArsTechnica notes, Google Duplex was asked for callers’ email during the demo and it responded with “I’m afraid I don’t have permission to share my client’s email.”
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With Duplex, Google is not planning to build an AI system that does everything for an user. Rather, it hopes to utilize Duplex for small and specific tasks like making hotel reservation and make it easy for those who use Google Assistant.
Google Duplex and other duplex communication technologies are being designed so that you will never have to make a phone call again. It is still a pain to make phone calls for tasks like hotel reservation and making an appointment at a saloon or spa. With Duplex, Google wants to automate by removing human interactions altogether but the question is how would you feel talking to a bot imitating a human.