Google Duplex Sounds Like a Human Because a Quarter of the Time, It Is
by Samra Anees
In March, Google announced that its digital assistant Google Duplex was rolling out. Soon after in May, Google announced CallJoy, a small business phone that serves as a virtual agent that can answer inbound calls, redirect callers to website links to book appointments, and even block spam calls. Many people were shocked at just how human Google’s digital assistant sounded—it even used filler phrases like “um” and “uh” that gave it more human-like mannerisms.
This blog explores how Google Duplex calls really work, and whether or not Google Duplex was falsely advertised.
A Quarter of Google Assistant Calls are from Call Centers
Recently, we learned that actually 25% of the time, it’s not Google Duplex you are talking to when you answer a call from “Google Assistant,” but a real human working in a call center. This came to light when a restaurant owner received a call from “Google Assistant,” and was so amazed by how human the speaker sounded, asked, “are you a robot?” to which the speaker on the other end laughed and replied, “No, I’m human.”
Google then confirmed that about 25% of calls initiated by Google Duplex are started by a human, while 15% of Google Duplex calls involve human intervention from a call center. The problem is, with Google Duplex already sounding so human-like, people answering calls from Duplex can’t distinguish robot from human, and until now, wouldn’t have thought to because everyone was under the assumption that Google Duplex was the one doing the calling 100% of the time.
Was Google Duplex Misleading?
Google Duplex was advertised as a fully sufficient digital assistant that could make calls and schedule appointments on its own. While some are questioning the capabilities of Google Duplex after this announcement, others are not surprised at the human involvement and believe that the AI in Google Duplex is in the early stages, and still augments the human workforce without replacing it. Eventually, it will be able to perform these tasks on its own.
While there’s nothing wrong with Duplex augmenting the workforce instead of completely automating the process, the issue lies in the fact that most people believed that the technology was already advanced enough to do the tasks it claimed it could do on its own; the fact that humans were involved in many of these processes came as a shock.
After marveling at the human-like capacity of Google Duplex, it’s slightly disappointing to learn that there is actually a lot of human involvement in the technology; more than was necessarily communicated with the launch of the product. While this dampens the hype around Google Duplex, the technology still has the potential to become what it was originally advertised to be. We will have to wait and see how this affects the success of the product.
September 12, 2020
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