Google’s new Duplex technology presents a significant tipping point for AI-powered voice assistants. Google’s AI can pick up the phone and make a phone call and the person on the other end probably won’t realize their talking to a robot.
Duplex was announced at Google IO, the companies annual developer conference, it’s a new technology that enables Google’s machine intelligence powered virtual assistant to take a phone call and have a natural conversation with a human. During the keynote the AI-powered assistant mimicked human speech, we know the demo was clearly pre-recorded. This didn’t stop anyone from being super impressed.
The audience didn’t know before the demo began that neither of the voices that initiated the calls belonged to a human. They were bots, dispatched through Google Assistant and activated through a back-end system.
In the first demo, a woman calls a hair salon, where another woman answers the phone; the two go back and forth for approximately a minute before they figure out a time that works for a hair appointment.
How human can your virtual assistant become without being creepy?
The second demo, also about a minute, a man calls a restaurant to book a reservation; the woman on the receiving end has a heavy accent and isn’t offering the best information, so the caller pivots to make a new request.
It’s impressive, they “Mmm mm“, “Ohhh, I gotcha” and even raise the pitch at the end of a statement to make it a question. In a keynote setting it’s impressive, but the first time I see it happen in the real world I better be wearing a diaper.
For Google, Duplex marks the next big step in natural-sounding, fully-autonomous robot conversations. Duplex brings together natural language processing, deep learning, and text-to-speech technology into one service.
It sets a new bar for Alexa & Cortana and truly pushes the idea that an AI can do more than just fetch data or set reminders.
Duplex flips the bot dynamic on its head, instead of a human calling an airline or bank, your robot could just call their robot and figure it all out.
The flip side as the human on the other end you want to know you’re talking to a robot and not another human. It feels deceptive.
There is no plan to roll out Duplex as a service just yet, it’s a technology still under development. However, there will be tests with Google Assitant and Duplex this summer. When it does eventually roll out, we hope that each call would start with something like “This is Nicole’s Google Assistant, I’m calling to…” or something that clearly identifies the voice as a machine.
Google’s smart compose is another feature that has the potential to evolve and not just suggest complete sentences but eventual just write complete emails without your input.
If Black Mirror were to take this feature and develop a storyline around it, today we get Smart Compose, in 5 years not only is it just responding to your emails for you, but it’s developing friendships with the people it corresponds with. Your email AIs might develop deep and meaningful relationships on your behalf without your knowledge. In a few more years they’ll move on just following your guidelines and start to develop business strategy, solve real world problems and basically end in a Skynet, Terminator like scenario.
This is a classic annihilation by the hands of technology story-line, but it’s easy to see how this feature will eventually evolve into something more independent than just sentence completion.
Black Mirror’s dystopian story-lines are starting to come true.
Rating people is the basis for Season 3’s Nosedive, where everyone can rate interactions and the main character experiences a rapid decline of her status over the episode.
It’s a reality we’ve got today with things like Uber’s rating system but the Chinese government has plans to implement a “social credit” system that rates an individuals trustworthiness based on political beliefs, online activities, and finances. The system has already stopped millions from traveling abroad. The government is also working a rating system for businesses.
At CES Toyota showed off a self driving pizza delivery van, a concept they launched with Pizza Hut aimed to roll out after 2020. In season 4’s Crocodile, you see a pizza making it to your door on its own.
Sony’s Aibo is coming out later this year and is a friendly version of the robot guard-dog that looks a lot like the Boston Dynamics dog but this one relentlessly peruses the hero in Metalhead.
There are countless other examples of how Black Mirror story lines are coming true, if you’d like us to write an article about it, leaves us a comment below.
For now we’ll leave you with the reality that during the opening keynote of Microsoft’s BUILD which happened in parallel with Google IO, CEO Satya Nadella said that privacy should be a human right, Google remained silent providing no commentary or reassurance.