Is Google Duplex real or was it just a slick presentation?
We call farse – no one has ever been that polite on the phone.
At this month’s I/O conference, Google demoed a new artificial intelligence-powered tool called Duplex. Now, Axios has done some digging and is convinced the demonstration wasn’t real, at least as it was presented.
First, here’s the video introducing Duplex:
As you can see, CEO Sundar Pichai introduced Google Duplex by presenting phone calls between Google Assistant and a hair salon and a restaurant. As Pichai explains:
What you’re going to hear is the Google assistant actually calling a real salon to schedule an appointment for you. Let’s listen.
Axios thinks the exchanges presented in the video are suspicious, suggesting no “real” business would answer a phone with “Hello, how can I help you?” or “Hi, may I help you?” To prove the point, Axios called over two dozen hair salons and restaurants, including some in Mountain View, California where Google is based. In every case, the person on the other line gave the name of the business.
There also does not seem to be ambient noise in either recording, such as hair dryers or plates clattering. We heard that in most of the businesses we called, but not in all.
Finally, neither the hair salon nor the restaurant ask for the customer’s phone number or any other contact information.
Convinced the Duplex introduction wasn’t real, Axios attempted to contact Google. So far, there’s been no response.
As the website concludes:
Bottom line: Google may well have created a lifelike voice assistant that we’ll all eventually use to complete mundane tasks like appointment scheduling. It also might be close to creating such a thing, but not quite there yet. Or it was partially staged. Or something else entirely. We just don’t know, because Google won’t answer the questions.
I’ve been saying all week Google Duplex sounded creepy. Based on the silence Axios has so far received, I’m beginning to wonder whether the software will ever see the light of day.
What say you? Leave your comments below.