Google Duplex is the AI powered Google Assistant
feature that makes reservations for you. The demo displayed at Google I/O was so smooth and seamless that it seemed suspicious. Scott Huffman, Google Assistant's VP of engineering, said that the demo was "too polished." While Google later admitted to editing out some information
(like the names of the businesses involved), apparently no hanky panky went on otherwise. To further prove to the media and the world that Duplex is legit, Google invited large media outlets like CNN
to hear Duplex in action.
A number of reporters met up at Oren's Hummus Shop located near Google's Mountain View headquarters, and each one took a call from Duplex on an old fashioned landline. As Duplex made call after call to reserve a table for a fictitious gentleman named Andrew, each reporter took turns taking the reservation. According to CNN's Heather Kelly, Duplex works well, but does have some limitations. It can say how many people are in a party, ask what times are available and give a contact phone number. But when it comes to making small talk, Duplex doesn't get involved. The conversations still include the strategic "um," which is designed to let the human on the other end of the call know that Duplex is still engaged in the conversation.
Duplex makes sure that the human on the call knows that it is not a real person by including a disclaimer at the beginning of the conversation. When CNN 's Kelly picked up the call during her turn, Duplex said, "Hi, I'm calling to make a reservation. I'm Google's automated booking service, so I'll record the call. Um, can I book a table for Saturday?" When the conversation gets too complicated for Duplex, it summons a human from Google's call center. "I think I got confused. Hold on, let me get my operator," Duplex says. Nick Fox, the VP of product for Google Assistant says that 80% of calls do not require a human intervention.
Google will now test Duplex with real live humans and companies. The system will first make calls to ask for businesses' hours of operation. Later this summer, Google will make test calls allowing Duplex to arrange hairdresser and restaurant reservations at businesses partnering with Google. The company hopes that the tests reveal any flaws that need to be fixed before Duplex becomes available to the public.