At this year’s Google I/O Conference, Sundar Pichai, the company’s CEO, has presented an amazing new capability for Google Assistant that puts it in front of its competitors: Google Duplex. The technology is amazing – in short, it can make phone calls on behalf of the user to reserve appointments at the hairdresser, book a table at a restaurant, and pretty much anything else that can be done through simply calling. On the other side, Duplex can not only speak on behalf of the user but also record the appointment in the users’ Calendar app and remind them of their upcoming appointment in due time. It is an amazing advance for AI digital assistants – but it’s a bit scary at the same time.
Duplex is an exciting new technology that can save a lot of time and hassle for its user – at the same time, it can help companies running call centers save a ton of money. In the coming years, when you get a phone call about an offer to book a timeshare, to renew your insurance or whatever else call centers contact you about, there might be an AI assistants talking to you instead of a human. For those on the receiving end of the call, this might not make a difference – after all, cold callers already “sound like robots” – replacing them with actual robots wouldn’t make them any less annoying. The companies running these operations, though, would save a lot on replacing actual human workforce with AI assistants handling the outgoing calls – and the incoming ones, too, in the future. And this would leave thousands of people without a job.
One of the most intriguing – and scariest – parts of Google Duplex is its ability to speak just like a human would. During the demo at Google I/O this year, the Assistant spoke just like a human being would, even using filler words like “um” in the process. This has raised a few concerns about the ethics of the technology – especially when it comes to call centers. During the demo, the AI did not identify as such, deceiving the businesses at the other end of the call – but Google made it clear that for each actual call made in the future, the AI will make it clear that there is no actual human at the other end.
For now, in turn, the dangers of being deceived by an AI caller are nil – Google has made it clear that it doesn’t work with any businesses on the implementation of a Google AI call center. Right now, the technology is focused on a limited number of personal call options, like booking a table at a restaurant and an appointment at the beauty parlor, for example.