If you aren’t ready for a robot-run future, now is the time to start building your secluded cabin in the woods.
It might be a lot to wrap your organic brain around, but artificial intelligence is getting smarter. As proof of this, Google recently demonstrated how their Assistant can now make calls to book your appointments and reservations.
At their recent Google I/O day, the company gave a demo of this new skill and dropped the jaws of everyone in their audience. The Assistant was previously able to book appointments and reservations through online systems, but got supercharged with the ability to actually make calls and talk to people thanks to a technology that Google is calling Google Duplex.
Duplex is the AI update we’ve all been waiting for, thanks to sci-fi shaping our expectations. The system takes AI to the next level by using natural speech, instead of the robotic speech that we’ve had with our smart phone and smart home speaker assistants up until now. This means that interactions are more natural; or, that when interactions are more normal, the AI can keep up. Right now, popular AI from leading companies still have to be talked to in a particular way, with prompts and trigger-friendly language. For now, the system has been built specifically for the purpose of booking appointments, making reservations, and doing other small phone inquiries (like confirming specials or holiday hours) but of course its application can, and will, expand.
The demonstration included two real (previously placed) phone calls from the Assistant; and showcased the Assistant’s ability to hold complex conversations, understand context, navigate nuances, and essentially trick the person on the phone into thinking they were talking to a human. The first phone call was made to a hair salon. Google’s Assistant was able to hold a conversation with the receptionist, and successfully volleyed a few dates and times back and forth before confirming. The Assistant was even able to understand and respond when asked to hold. The second call was a bit more complicated, as the Assistant was tasked with making a reservation at a restaurant. There were several questions that would have tripped up any other AI, but Google’s Assistant navigated them flawlessly. When a reservation couldn’t be placed because the party wasn’t big enough, Assistant was able to understand that context and instead asked for wait times.
Though ready to demo and very convincing, the system is still going through some testing and isn’t available for the general public just yet.
It will be interesting to see how Apple and Amazon respond to this competitor capability. Apple has been late to this rapidly expanding AI game, and Amazon has been very focused on expanding its current system with new services and applications (like using Echos and Alexa in the workplace, and not just the home). For now, we have to give Duplex some time to continue to train and learn, so that it can complete all tasks successfully.