Due to the fact that we cover technology on a daily basis, we can see its gradual progression over time, which means that we don’t often see such a huge leap in capabilities that simply leaves us slack-jawed. However, that jaw-dropping moment happened today at Google I/O.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai was on stage talking about the advances that have been made with its Google Duplex AI system. Google Duplex is capable of carrying on natural, realistic conversations in a [limited] real world settings to help free you from more mundane tasks, such as booking an oil change for your car or reserving a table at your favorite restaurant.
To demonstrate the advances that Google Duplex has made, Pichai played back this actual conversation that took place in which the Google Assistant called a salon to book a hair appointment.
I don’t care who you are, that’s amazing. The cadence in the speech, the pauses, the overall “humanness” of the caller. And don’t get us started on the “Mm-hmm” that was casually thrown in on the call and the “umms” and “uhhs”.
In a second example, the Google Assistant used a male voice to book a table for four people on Wednesday the 7th. There was a bit of confusion with the restaurant worker, who thought that the caller meant to secure a table for 7 people. From there, the call delves into a bit of comical (to us as an outside party) back and forth before coming to an agreeable resolution. In this exchange, the Google Assistant once again handled the situation with aplomb.
According to Google, roughly 60 percent of business don’t have an online booking system, which makes using the Google Assistant — with the power of Google Duplex — helpful in automating the process for customers.
“One of the key research insights was to constrain Duplex to closed domains, which are narrow enough to explore extensively,” writes Google. “Duplex can only carry out natural conversations after being deeply trained in such domains. It cannot carry out general conversations.”
So, don’t expect for the Google Assistant to be able to carry on a conversation with your mom who could talk for hours on end on the phone.