Introducing: Google Duplex

The recent reveal of Google Duplex has been met with mixed reactions. Some say it’s revolutionary and a massively positive leap forward for AI and others… well, others think it’s creepy.

So, what exactly is Google Duplex? In its simplest form, it’s a human-sounding robot… but we’re not talking along the lines of SIRI. This human-sounding voice is indistinguishable from other humans. This is where the creepiness comes in.

Google has been doing its research and has noticed that a lot of businesses have yet to introduce an online booking system. Consequently, a lot of business’, like the dentist, hairdressers, the doctors, opticians and even restaurants… they all still rely on phone calls as their primary method of bookings.

As we all know, for many years, businesses have been in favour of people being able to talk to computers, from automated phone systems to virtual assistants in our speakers and phones. But, although these have definitely had their perks, there’s still been a lot of shortcomings in terms of their delivery.

Google’s raised the excellent point that the biggest problem with them is that users have to adjust their behaviour to the system, rather than the other way around.

 

Enter Google Duplex! The answer to all of our questions, right?!

 

The computer allows for natural conversation, where the computer will adjust to the person. No more adjusting how you ask for things, or say words, Google Duplex will figure it out.

The computer uses natural tonation and words and phrases like ‘um’ and ‘uh’s that humans so commonly utilise. But, it doesn’t stop there, the AI system can also handle interruptions AND elaborate.

How does it work?

This incredible Google Duplex system is centred around a recurrent neutral network that was build using TensorFlow Extend (TFX), a machine learning platform.

Google’s basically been traiing this network for several years now, using anonymised phone conversation data… as you can imagine it’s all a bit complicated.

Google needs to work with output from Google’s automatic speech-recognition software, all whilst taking into account features of the audio and the conversation’s history. A lot, right?!

It also needs to operate within the parameters of the conversation it is carrying out. Knowing what to ask and the kind of responses it should ideally be giving.

What can it do for you?

The first and foremost thing that Google Duplex can do for you is cut down your workload. It’ll make your phone calls for you, schedule appointments, check opening hours, the list goes on.

It goes without saying that it can’t perform personal calls for you, but it’s a massive step up for you in terms of having a PA. For instance, if you tell Google Assistant you want to get your hair at a specific salon next Tuesday at 1 p.m., the system will call and make a reservation for you and then notify you when it’s confirmed.

So, what’s the problem?

A lot of people have expressed concerns about Google Duplex and it goes beyond the initial reaction of “it’s a bit creepy,” there are concerns for privacy and security.

How trustworthy and secure is it for a computer system to phone and speak to humans on your behalf? Plus, is it fair on the real human on the other end if they’re not aware they’re talking to a robot?

There are concerns about the impact on advertising, too. Plus, general uneasiness on just how fast AI is evolving, Google Assistant only came into existence a couple of years ago and now it’s already sounding identical to a human on the phone.

Google has actually addressed some of these issues, stating that Google Assistant will identify itself at the beginning of each call and will note that it’s recording the call.