Google Unveils the Future of AI

Staff Writer / 23-05-2019 / News

For most people, the mention of Artificial Intelligence, or AI, conjures up images of Transformers, the androids from Westworld or J.A.R.V.I.S from Iron Man, to name just a few. AI has been fertile ground for exploration in science-fiction over the past few decades. Although technologies like Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri are impressive, they’re still miles behind their science-fiction counterparts. Google is aiming to close this gap with their jaw-dropping AI showcased at the 2018 I/O developer conference. Dubbed Google Duplex, the AI demo left the 7000 audience members in awe, with a few even pondering what this could mean for the future of human interaction.

Google Duplex isn’t being touted for its business applications, but rather as a virtual personal assistant for everyday consumers that integrates with Google Assistant to carry out specific tasks, such as making a phone call on your behalf!  These capabilities were demonstrated by Google CEO Sundar Pichai using two recordings of real-world telephone calls made by the AI. The first call was to reserve a table at a restaurant, while the second was to book an appointment with a hairdresser. This can be particularly useful when businesses don’t offer online booking services and you don’t feel like making a call yourself. Just don’t use it to wish your significant other a happy anniversary, because we’re pretty sure Google won’t be held responsible for the consequences.

The recorded examples proved that the AI can interact with people using either a male or female voice that is virtually indistinguishable from that of a real person. It even uses phrases such as “mmm-hmm” and “uh”, and matches natural human speech patterns and rhythms. In fact, neither the salon receptionist nor restaurant employee in the telephone recordings ever seem to realise that there isn’t an actual human on the other end of those calls. However, this seamless conversation raised a few important issues, such as the ethical implications of not disclosing to someone that they are talking to an AI-powered virtual assistant. Google agreed, promising to look at ways to build this notification into all interactions and say they will continue to refine the technology based on user feedback.

Google isn’t really pushing the business applications of Duplex, so for now, consumer applications seem to be the sweet spot, and we can’t wait to see what they do with it.