“Limited testing” of Google Duplex beginning in weeks

Developers were impressed with its near Turing-level adeptness at calling a Thai restaurant and conversationally reserving a table for four during Google I/O. Soon, Google will begin public-side testing its AI-powered voice concierge system, Duplex.

The Verge reports that the company already has a very specific group of users selected and that they will only be able to make reservations at a handful of restaurants. The growth path will be tightly controlled: Duplex will only be able to ask about holiday hours at first before it will be able to make table reservations, then hair cut appointments.

Google Assistant’s new voices were demonstrated to sound more human than before, which has concerned some civil liberty advocates, so the company is also testing various disclosure clauses like:

Hi, I’m calling to make a reservation. I’m Google’s automated booking service, so I’ll record the call. Uh, can I book a table for Sunday the first?

Engineers found that the inclusion of vocal filler helped call recipients stay on the line, especially after the disclosure. However, if they do not want to be recorded, they may say so and Duplex will call back on an unrecorded line. The original story, linked below, has much more minutia on the experience.

Interestingly, businesses registered with Google will have to opt out of Duplex if they don’t want to participate in the program. Duplex will not share email addresses with businesses, but will give a call-back number. And if Duplex comes to a point where it cannot handle an impasse in is abilities, it will redirect to human operators. That said, Google claims that about 80 percent of calls did not need a human operator.

As for those impasses, well, they will depend on what the human on the other end of the line has to say.

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Jules Wang
Jules Wang is News Editor for Pocketnow and one of the hosts of the Pocketnow Weekly Podcast. He came onto the team in 2014 as an intern editing and producing videos and the podcast while he was studying journalism at Emerson College. He graduated the year after and entered into his current position at Pocketnow, full-time.