Was the Google Duplex demo at Google I/O faked? (UPDATE: Restaurant tracked down, calls edited)



UPDATE: It appears that the restaurant in the Duplex demo was tracked down, and is believed to be Hongs Gourmet in Saratoga, California. An employee at the restaurant said that the call was made by Google Assistant and Google did not inform them ahead of time about the call. Apparently, the decorations inside the eatery match a photo Google posted on its blog showing Yaniv Leviathan, Google Duplex lead, and Matan Kalman, engineering manager on the project, taking advantage of the reservation made by Duplex. Additionally, Bloomberg reports that the calls were edited to hide the names of the salon and the restaurant. PhoneArena called Victor at Hongs Gourmet this afternoon, and he confirmed that Google had called the restaurant and made the reservation. He also said that Google had told him that the name of restaurant would be kept private (which explains the editing).

Remember that impressive demo of Google Duplex at Google I/O earlier this month? Google CEO Sundar Pichai demonstrated how the new Google Assistant feature can make a phone call for you, engage in a two-way dialogue with the party at the other end of the phone, schedule an appointment, and report back to you the day and time that the appointment is scheduled for. Check out the video at the top of this story before you proceed.

Watch the demo? Good. Now we can pass along the thoughts of the Axios news website, which found enough red flags in the demo to make us wonder whether some of it was faked. For example, a business usually answers the phone by saying its name. The call to the hair salon was answered with "Hello, how can I help you?" The call to the restaurant was answered with "Hi, may I help you?" Axios called two dozen hair salons and restaurants, some in Mountain View, California (where Google is located). Every time the business picked up the phone, the person immediately gave the name of the business first.

Axios also pointed out that there was no background noise heard on either call. Axios noted that when they dialed up hair salons and restaurants, most of the time ambient noises like a hair dryer or clattering plates could be heard. Still, on some of the calls, such sounds were absent. Lastly, both businesses called on the demo never asked for the customer's phone number. Oops.

Axios asked Google for the name of the salon and the restaurant, promising that neither business name would be published. Google said that it would not disclose that information. The news site asked if the calls were edited at all in order to protect the businesses involved, and for the sake of time. The company said it would get back to Axios with an answer. They are still waiting for the reply.

So what are we to make of this? In this era where any story without complete transparency is labeled 'fake news,' it behooves Google to come clean about the Duplex demo. Come on Google, give us the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Otherwise, what just might be quite a leap forward for Google and Google Assistant will be tainted for the moment by questions about whether it is a real breakthrough (think about those lifelike strategic "uhs" Assistant makes during the calls), or a fake.

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55 Comments

1. TechSceptic

Posts: 1156; Member since: Feb 05, 2018

I'm definitely leaning towards true, as Google is pretty fantastic at AI, as seen by all of the crazy and impressive things that their Deepmind department has achieved.

8. Finalflash

Posts: 4063; Member since: Jul 23, 2013

Thing is, the restaurant side responded mostly how I would expect someone picking up the phone to respond. Business name is irrelevant, even if the human side was scripted, all that matters is that the robot side was real. If the robot was faked then that makes it pointless, but likely it wasn't.

18. Vokilam

Posts: 1286; Member since: Mar 15, 2018

I’m with final flash. Even if the human side was scripted the AI was impressive. Google didn’t claim it was ready for public just yet - so in my opinion this was demoed in a manner that we should expect once it rolls. I would even say that if it works like this at leas 80% of the time it would be fantastic. I only suggest to google is to make the AI introduce itself such as “hi, this is google assistant calling on behalf of Vokilam, i want to order a pizza”. This will solve two possible issues: 1: the person on the other line won’t feel stupid once they figured out it was AI or even hang up once they realize it’s AI. 2: if the AI does screw up, the worker will expect that (instead of be confused) and will try to work with the AI to complete the order/task.

46. tsp38

Posts: 38; Member since: Jun 04, 2015

I'm with you, especially for that reason #2.. once this feature (or something similar) becomes a reality, no one, in any service industry, will be upset that they're talking to an AI. they will still be helping a human being in the end, afterall. it only helps to know that they're AI so that they can accommodate any deficiencies the AI might have.

53. NarutoKage14

Posts: 1327; Member since: Aug 31, 2016

Accommodate an AI for it's deficiencies? Oh brother. How about we let self driving cars park in handicap spots while we're at it. In all honesty I think this could be a great service for people with speaking or hearing disabilities or non native speakers.

55. iampun33t

Posts: 136; Member since: Apr 17, 2013

I agree with you for the most part, though I can see one problem with Assistant letting the other person know, is that these people are so slammed with calls from so many people, all day long, they probably would disconnect as soon as they get to know it not a real person calling.

56. Vokilam

Posts: 1286; Member since: Mar 15, 2018

Yeah youre right, I get calls from Google Business search companies that want to "help your business get discovered" BS every single day - as soon as I hear "Google" I hang up. But that's the nature of using this feature. I'm hoping that it gets popular enough and people will distinguish if it's a "telemarketer sales call" or "client call". if the case that people will just disconnect once they know will happen either in the beginning or once they find out its AI. If it does become a popular feature to use - I dont want businesses hating it - so introduction that it's an AI would help that, in my opinion.

21. piyath

Posts: 2445; Member since: Mar 23, 2012

I'm leaning towards "Google just made up all this" theory. They took the risk because they were so desperate. Without the duplex part their entire event will be a boring nothingburger and they knew that.

24. Finalflash

Posts: 4063; Member since: Jul 23, 2013

Right, we will put that theory on the piyath shelf next to the flat earther and fake moon landing theories.

51. FlySheikh

Posts: 444; Member since: Oct 02, 2015

Lol.. this comment

33. TechSceptic

Posts: 1156; Member since: Feb 05, 2018

Piyath doesn't believe anything positive related to Android? I am shocked!

37. RebelwithoutaClue unregistered

Guess you haven't paid attention to the rest of the event because it wasn't boring at all. But you have something negative to say about Google, such a surprise.

47. acme64

Posts: 128; Member since: Jul 13, 2015

What was the "risk"? why would they be "desperate"? if you found i/o boring then clearly you aren't the target audience. This isn't CES.

52. lyndon420

Posts: 6836; Member since: Jul 11, 2012

Whatever dude. Google Duplex just blew Siri out of the water...and she won't be getting wet anytime soon...

31. miketer

Posts: 531; Member since: Apr 02, 2015

Apart from that, it'll be a call that's been arranged and set with the receiving entity before itself, so that the recordings and all are clear, to showcase in a major event.

2. cmdacos

Posts: 4267; Member since: Nov 01, 2016

Edited not faked.

4. Awalker

Posts: 1982; Member since: Aug 15, 2013

It may have been rehearsed with the business beforehand.

5. Dr.Phil

Posts: 2453; Member since: Feb 14, 2011

It's definitely true that it was edited, but it's also 100% true that if this was a real phone call then they picked the best version out of probably 1,000 different attempts. Many articles mentioned that the stage demo was one of the best case scenarios they saw, but that there were many other attempts that failed or didn't sound nearly as good. So I would think that what you're seeing is the BEST case scenario for the assistant (in other words one attempt at it working flawlessly), but that the majority of the time it won't work that seamless.

20. iPhoneFanboy

Posts: 286; Member since: Apr 21, 2018

People seem to forget that this was a tech demo, and not a product demo, and can expect to see this publicly released after 2020 (on the 5% of Android users that will enjoy this).

27. Sammy_DEVIL737

Posts: 1529; Member since: Nov 28, 2016

But that still doesn't changes the fact that Siri can't even do half of the things which Google Assistant is capable of and is still dumb in comparision too even newly arrived Alexa. Don't worry Apple will make Siri smarter until 2050.

28. iPhoneFanboy

Posts: 286; Member since: Apr 21, 2018

Someone's nerve got struck, lmfao.

29. Sammy_DEVIL737

Posts: 1529; Member since: Nov 28, 2016

Awwww... Triggered much?

30. iPhoneFanboy

Posts: 286; Member since: Apr 21, 2018

Even the links from your phone don't work lmao The only one triggered here is you haha. I'm over here loving life, and my iPhone :)

32. Sammy_DEVIL737

Posts: 1529; Member since: Nov 28, 2016

"Even the links from your phone don't work lmao" I don't know about which link are you talking about but I am actually commenting this from my iPad 2017 which I love since day 1. Don't worry you will get out of that "people who criticize single thing about Apple product are the one who can't buy Apple products" phase.

34. iPhoneFanboy

Posts: 286; Member since: Apr 21, 2018

Sure you are, LOL

44. Sammy_DEVIL737

Posts: 1529; Member since: Nov 28, 2016

Yup I am but your deflection was high in that previous post.

38. RebelwithoutaClue unregistered

Awww.... Isn't a link you dufus lol. You really clicked on it didn't you haha

45. Sammy_DEVIL737

Posts: 1529; Member since: Nov 28, 2016

You can't expect much from a blind sheep.

3. jasaero

Posts: 46; Member since: Oct 20, 2014

I'm wondering if it's half fake based on what this publication found calling similar places in Google's home town. It's totally possible Duplex on the call...but the business is just an "actor"/Tester so they don't have to be screwing with/trolling random businesses when Duplex does flub things...which may still happen often when the call isn't answered just like these calls were answered. I'm sure of it works this well all the time it would be closer to public consumption.

6. Godlymansean

Posts: 339; Member since: Apr 14, 2017

That's why its a demo, they'll fine tune it and I'm sure Google will be able to deliver. Very impressive.

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