If technology hasn’t freaked you out before, then let Google do the honors. The artificial intelligence app designed by Google, known as Google Assistant, is making many people spook out of their chairs. The app is now making surprisingly and shockingly real phone calls and there is no way one can define the difference between the two.
On May 8, during a developer’s conference, CEO Sundar Pichai unveiled a new feature of the app, known as Duplex. The company has taken Natural Language Processing or NLP to the next level. The CEO noted that they have done years of hard work in creating this feature. Enabled with Duplex, your Google Assistant can make real-sounding phone calls anywhere.
You may believe that there is a program with some instructions and a voice fed to it simply playing a recording, you are wrong. For those who have not been initiated in tech, it could be difficult to grasp the concept. However, as you listen to Pichai’s address you will find that Google has taken a leap that several other tech companies are only thinking to do.
What happened at the conference?
The Assistant can not only book an appointment for you but also make phone calls that sound like humans. If the conversation doesn’t go as expected, the artificial intelligence program can process the data in such a way that it looks more human.
Pichai played a recording on screen where the Assistant called a salon to book an appointment for the user. While she was asked to wait on call, she said things like ‘umm’ and ‘umm-hmm’, something only a human would do while in this situation. The phone call went as expected and the appointment was booked.
Then he went on to show an example where the AI had to use its ability to sound more human and handle unprecedented situations tactfully. It was asked to call a lesser known, small restaurant too book a table. The attendant on the phone had a very heavy accent and had some difficulties understanding English. In the CEO’s words, the Assistant handled the conversation very ‘gracefully’ and ensured that the job was done.
Why is this important?
Duplex can present incredible value for both general users as well as organizations. It could help in making small, tedious tasks easier and fully automate a system. It is highly likely that in the near future, two AIs will be communicating with each other to book appointment, provide concierge services and even handle customer support calls.
However, there is another side of this technology that is threatening people. For example, will Google make it clear that the person on the other side is talking to a bot? What all can the bot do? If something goes terribly wrong, will Google be directly liable to pay for the damages?
Google notes that Duplex feature isn’t designed for open-ended conversations about philosophy. It can only work in closed environments for now where the conversation is more or less predefined. If you want an AI to console you when you feel down, you will have to wait a little longer.