At Google’s annual I/O Conference they showed a live demonstration of Google Assistant using their new AI software, Google Duplex, to make an appointment at a hair salon via a phone call. The Flaunt Digital team discuss what this could mean for the future of tech…
See below for a full video transcription.
Jamie: The next thing we’re going to cover is Google’s demo of a phone call taking place using Google Assistant, it’s called Duplex. Basically, on stage they demo’d it, I’m not sure if it was a live demo.
Lee: They did both, they did a pre-recorded demo which was the hair place.
Lee: And then they rung a restaurant live.
Jamie: Awesome, yeah. So you basically got a robot making your bookings for you now at restaurants or hair salons, which is a bit of a weird thing to comprehend.
Lee: It’s absolutely mental. When you hear it back, the context that, well first of all, the robot doesn’t sound like a robot, it sounds like a person. And secondly, the context that it puts in sentences. Like it’ll pause, and it’ll go, “Mm,” while it’s thinking. It just sounds like you’re talking to a person.
Lee: I think that’s what’s weird to me.
Chris: They’ve had to achieve, because if it sounded too robotic, people would think it was just some sort of sales call or auto dialer or something like that, and you’d just instantly hang up, wouldn’t you?
Lee: But, is there then an argument to say that Google should integrate full disclosure into that? So when you answer the phone, should it say, “This is a Google Assistant,”?
Chris: Yeah, possibly.
Lee: Because you have no way of distinguishing between that and a real person.
Chris: But you’ve then got people who don’t even know what Google Assistant is, and then they’d be like, “I don’t understand, I’m sorry.” And just start talking back at it.
Lee: Well, that’s a different issue I think…
Jamie: I find this whole thing pretty weird, to be honest. Why would you want an automated assistant to talk to a human? I don’t, the amount of work that must have gone into this is mind blowing. So I just can’t understand why they wouldn’t just, it’s totally off topic, but why didn’t they just build in like a booking platform into Google My Business, and just an API, and when you tell an assistant to book you a hair salon appointment at 2:00 p.m. on Tuesday, it just goes into Google My Business’s API and says, “Yeah, it’s booked.” And then it emails the website administrator or whatever.
Chris: It’s like everything they do, they’re showcasing…
Jamie: I get that.
Chris:. ..their capability. It’s not, nobody actually really uses it I bet. I’d love to see some stats on how many people actually use probably 50% of the functionality it’s capable of. I know I don’t.
Chris: Yeah, I just find it weird. Imagine working at a salon and at one point in time it became quite common that you’re just getting rung up by robots all the time. It’d be a bit weird, wouldn’t it?
Lee: You wouldn’t know, though, that’s the scary thing.
Jamie: The robot may as well, don’t even do any of this AI and language processes, the robot may as well just say, “This is Google, 2:00 p.m., Tuesday, for Jamie, bye.” You don’t need a conversation.
Chris: The next level of that, I guess, would be some sort of integration of platform that was able to deal with Google Assistant inquiries, bookings or something like that on the other end, rather than a human answering that inquiry, or dealing with the Assistant inquiry. And it just wouldn’t be a phone call then, would it? It would just be like a booking system.
Jamie: That’s what I mean, that’s why just have an API. The reason why people ring up to make hair appointments surely in case you guys have like a specific barber, right? And you ring up and go, “Can I have Brian?” And they might say, “Yeah, no, you can’t have him. You’ve got to come on Wednesday or something.”
Chris: Mate I can get Brian any time. I tip well.
Jamie: Yeah, so when you ring up and it’s not you, it’s not Chris’s voice, a robot, and you go, “I want Brian,” and they go, “You can’t have him, no.” Do you know what I mean? It’s just not the same is, it?
Lee: Listen to the voice.
Jamie: What happens if salon lady says “No, we’re shut that day”?
Lee: It replies. It figures it out and proposes like a different date and time and stuff like that.
Chris: But what about when they ask like, what kind of cut and color to the woman? Wet cut, dry cut, blow dry?
Lee: I think we’re focusing on the wrong things. I think it’s absolutely mindblowing that’s it’s been done. To this level. I think we’re gonna have, we’re probably gonna see a situation out here where people have these in their homes, and businesses will have ones set up on the desk and then you’ll have two talking to each other.
Jamie: Why? Don’t use phones anymore.
Chris: Yeah, I think I agree with you. Just have some sort of booking system.
Lee: I’m so old.
Chris: It’s good, I mean it’s progression isn’t it, that’s what they’re showcasing, they’re showcasing progression and how many people off the back of seeing that have been absolutely mind blown by it and went out and bought one.
Jamie: That’s just not what phones are for.
Chris: I personally probably would not take advantage of that. In fact, I’d love to see some live examples of that going wrong.
Lee: Well I think on a broad scale it’s very impressive.
Jamie: It’s cool. Conversational technology has gone mental in the last five, ten years. That translation stuff is the best showcase of this. Where you can speak into it in English and it speaks out in Italian. That’s where it’s practical.
Lee: That’s where the application will start coming into its own, but we’re way off. I mean Duplex won’t be put into public domain for at least another two or three years.
Jamie: Yeah, we won’t have phones by then.
Lee: Google are getting very close to becoming Skynet though. That’s what they’re aiming for.
Chris: I think the translations thing is really exciting.
Jamie: I can see how that’s practical, that’s cool. So you can walk into a shop and talk to it and give it to the shopkeeper. That’s cool. It’s genuinely useful.
Chris: How many times do people go away as well and they’re absolutely baffled by all this, there’s so many instances isn’t there where you’re just completely mixed up and gets things wrong.
Jamie: With the new Pixel phone you get that ear piece, don’t you? And if someone’s speaking to you in another language, it’ll pipe it in to you in English.
Lee: Yeah, yeah, it’s live translation.
Jamie: That’s cool, that’s really cool. If that worked, I mean, I’ve not tried it, but if that worked, that’s just a game changer. If you can walk into any country and just talk to people.
Chris: Nobody would learn any other language then.
Jamie: We’re all ignorant anyway aren’t we, English?