Published: Sat, May 25, 2019
Electronics | By Kelly Massey

Google Duplex sounds loads like a human - and typically it's one

Google Duplex sounds loads like a human - and typically it's one

A report from The New York Times was published this week focusing on Duplex, detailing how in some cases, it's not your Google Assistant robot booking a table for you at your favorite restaurant, but instead, an actual human being. Duplex uses verbal tics like "uh" and "um", elongates certain words, and moves its voice up and down to mimic human speech. Google Duplex can do things like book tables at restaurants by simply calling the restaurant and asking for a table - all while sounding like a real human. Google told the publication that it uses a variety of signals to decide whether a call should be made by a human or AI.

According to the report, Google uses a few factors to determine whether a human is better suited for making a call.

Update, May 23, 2019 (02:34 PM ET): Google clarified for us how Duplex works when it comes to handing off tasks to a human rather than a bot.

Remarkably, in less than a year's time, Google Duplex is now available on many Android and iOS smartphones across the United States.

The finding comes from the New York Times, which also learned that in a further 15 per cent of cases, humans had to step in when the AI fails to complete a booking, which must be incredibly unusual for restaurant staff.

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For now, Google has no plans of ending human intervention for Duplex. Sometimes, Duplex calls aren't picked up by a restaurant because they can look like spam on a restaurant's Caller ID.

But according to a New York Times article, this isn't exactly what happens.

Google says the intention is to make Duplex a fully machine-powered system.

As the Times points out, building a system that is entirely automated requires a lot of data to enable the neural networks to be ready for any hard or nuanced questions during calls. That said, Google Assistant vice president Nick Fox mentioned to the New York Times that it was in no rush to completely do away with human interaction because of the fact that it didn't want to make it harder for restaurants to make bookings. For example, if Google isn't sure whether an eatery takes reservations, or if it suspects that the person making the reservation is a spammer, it will have a call center employee initiate the call.

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