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Google Duplex

What is Google Duplex?

Google Duplex is an artificial intelligence (AI) technology that mimics a human voice and makes phone calls on a person's behalf. It enables users to perform a variety of tasks -- including make reservations, schedule appointments and perform other functions -- without having to speak to someone.

Google Duplex represents a giant step forward in the development of conversational AI by using Google Assistant to speak on behalf of individuals with AI-powered software. By simplifying routine tasks that require a user to make phone calls, Duplex frees up time so they can focus on other important activities.

How does Google Duplex work?

Duplex, which uses natural language understanding and natural language generation to carry on a two-way conversation, incorporates interjections and pauses in such a lifelike manner that someone listening in could easily mistake a human-to-computer transaction for a human-to-human natural conversation.

Duplex is built on a recurrent neural network using TensorFlow Extended, a general-purpose machine learning platform used at Google. It imitates real-world human speech patterns using the latest natural language processing innovations, including Google DeepMind's WaveNet audio-generation technology. The Duplex automated AI system is designed to perform tasks autonomously but signals a human operator if the program can't complete the task.

Is Google Duplex still available?

Duplex was unveiled by Google's CEO Sundar Pichai at the Google I/O 2018 developer conference along with the rebranding of Google Research to Google AI. At Google I/O 2019, Google announced that Duplex was transitioning from being a voice-only service to being able to execute web-based activities using Google Chrome on Android and by extracting information from calendar and Gmail. To arrange and book appointments and complete transactions such as making a rental car reservation, Google Duplex for the web used the information Google already knew about people.

But only the phone-based version of Google Duplex is still accessible in some parts of the world, while the web version was shut down in December 2022 after Google announced that it's focusing entirely on making AI advancements to its Duplex voice technology.

Where is Google Duplex available?

Google Duplex was initially available to owners of Pixel phones and would only call a few eateries in Atlanta, New York, Phoenix and San Francisco. Later, Duplex became widely available and is currently offered in most U.S. states.

According to Google's support page, Duplex is offered in other countries, including Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, France, Germany, India, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Spain, the United Kingdom and Venezuela.

Which devices support Google Duplex?

Google Pixel, Pixel XL, Pixel 2, Pixel 2 XL, Pixel 3 and 3 XL phone customers were the first to receive Google Duplex. Currently, any device with the Google Assistant app installed and access to Google Search or Google Maps can use Duplex. Android phones, iPhones and Google-based smart displays make up a sizable portion of that range.

What are the use cases for Google Duplex?

One of the key benefits of conversational AI tools such as Google Duplex is that it can carry out natural-sounding phone conversations with humans. As a result, consumers can interact with Google Duplex in a way that feels intuitive and natural, which could increase user satisfaction and engagement.

Currently, Google Duplex can assist with the following tasks:

  • Making restaurant reservations and finding wait times.
  • Holding in a phone queue using the "Hold For Me" feature.
  • Purchasing movie tickets.
  • Scheduling hair salon appointments.
  • Helping with lost or forgotten passwords.
  • Checking stores for in-demand items.
  • Checking business hours.

Duplex's restaurant reservations and wait times feature is especially useful during holidays. Regular hours of operation for businesses that are listed with Google are usually displayed under Google Search or Google Maps results, but they aren't always accurate or updated to reflect holiday hours. Currently, this function is only available in the U.S. and access to features varies by location.

How is Google Duplex different from other AI systems?

Google Duplex's ability to have natural conversations with people sets it apart from other AI systems. Chatbots and voice assistants typically use preprogrammed responses or a small number of commands, which can make them seem artificial or robotic. Google Duplex also identifies itself at the start of a call, so the person on the other end of the phone knows they're talking to a machine.

How to use Google Duplex to make an appointment

Users based in the U.S can take the following steps to make an appointment:

  1. Turn on Google Assistant on the smartphone's smart display. Owners of iPhones must launch the Google Assistant app.
  2. Ask Google Assistant to set up an appointment, such as a restaurant reservation or a haircut appointment. For example, to book a table at a restaurant, the user can say, "Book a table at Eddie Merlot's."
  3. If a business name isn't given, the Assistant presents a list of alternatives, although not all businesses participate with Duplex. It might take a few tries to locate a participating business.
  4. Once a participating business is selected, the Assistant asks the user about the date, time, party size and the type of booking service required. It might also ask for alternative and preferred times.
  5. Confirm that the phone call should be made and Duplex contacts the business and makes the reservation.
  6. Once the appointment is made, the Assistant informs the requester. It also informs the user if the business doesn't respond to the call.

To cancel a scheduled appointment, users can follow these steps:

  1. Open Google Assistant or the Google Assistant app.
  2. Say "My reservations" to the Assistant and select the booking in question.
  3. Tap See details and select Cancel reservation.

Do AI assistants pose any concerns?

AI-based voice assistants, chatbots and platforms such as Google Duplex, Amazon Alexa and OpenAI's ChatGPT are changing the way people conduct business. While there are many advantages to AI assistants, some theories also suggest certain drawbacks. An apparent concern is that a virtual assistant won't always produce the same outcomes that are anticipated. For instance, would an assistant consistently be able to book a seat at the right restaurant at the right time?

While virtual assistants are generally accurate, it's difficult to trust them because they might not understand the question or context of the request.

The fusion of AI and voice recognition has encouraged innovation for more sophisticated capabilities. Explore three examples of applications that show where voice technology is headed.

This was last updated in March 2023

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