Google has wild new technology that sounds like a real human on the phone, and people already have really strong opinions about it

  • The video above shows the first public demonstration Google Duplex, a new experimental feature that lets Google Assistant call businesses on your behalf to get information or make reservations.
  • It was easily the wildest announcement at Google I/O, the company’s annual developer conference.
  • People are already forming some very strong opinions about Google Duplex and its various technological and societal implications.

Google Duplex was the talk of Google I/O, the company’s annual developer conference that kicked off this week.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai unveiled the new product himself on Tuesday: Basically, you can ask Google Assistant to call a business on your behalf, and Google’s AI will schedule an appointment for you. Google demoed two phone calls on stage to give people a taste of what to expect.

For the most part, people focused on two aspects of Google Duplex:

  1. How natural it sounded. Google Duplex uses Google’s new natural-sounding AI, which adds its own little air-fillers between words in the same way humans do, like “um,” and “uh.”
  2. The fact the people on the phone didn’t seem to know they were talking to computer software. Pichai did mention during the presentation that Google is working hard to “get the user experience and the expectations right for both businesses and users,” but people think final product should include some kind of greeting so they’re aware they’re talking to Google Assistant and not an actual human being.

And so, reactions to Google Duplex haved mainly played out in two ways: People are blown away by what Google has created, and how far their AI efforts have come. But people are scared, too, and they’re concerned about what this could mean for artificial intelligence and the future of human interaction.

Some people believe Google Duplex presents a deeper moral issue.

https://twitter.com/mathowie/status/994258768056664064?ref_src=twsrc^tfw

For what it’s worth, Google insiders told Business Insider that the company will likely tweak the final version of Google Duplex so people feel comfortable using it – and that would likely include communicating that it is, in fact, a machine talking on a person’s behalf, but Google could also remove some of the “ahs” and “ums” that make some people feel uncomfortable.

Still, many are excited by the possibilities presented by Google Duplex:

https://twitter.com/bucksthesystem/status/994582590760935424?ref_src=twsrc^tfw

Google Duplex is likely years away from a commercial rollout, and it will almost certainly look different by the time it’s released to the public.

Still, regardless whether you think Google Duplex is good or bad, it’s incredible to see how far Google’s AI has come in the last decade.

Years ago, the main thrust of these personal assistants was simple stuff: getting the weather, or setting a timer without needing to open an app. Soon, though, Google Assistant could be calling businesses on your behalf and setting up appointments. Who knows what the next 10 years will bring: Maybe Google Assistant will be able to do actual work for you, or apply to jobs for you in the background, like the way AI is portrayed in the 2013 movie “Her.”

One thing is certain: As technologies get more advanced, our relationships with them will only get more complicated.

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