Google’s creepy human-sounding AI that can book a reservation for you is coming to iPhone

Google’s human-sounding AI helper which stole the show at Google I/O 2018 by making an erringly realistically sounding phone call to a hair salon is coming to your iPhone soon.

Dubbed Google Duplex, this impressive feature from the future is coming to iOS devices soon, according to a blog post from the company on Wednesday.

“Over the next few weeks, we’ll start slowly bringing this feature to more Android and iOS devices, and will continue to incorporate feedback as we continue testing,” reads the post.

The feature will arrive via an update to Google Assistant for iOS, a free download from App Store. It being a staggered rollout means not all users will get Duplex at the same time.

As of today, Pixel owners can ask Assistant to make a restaurant reservation for them in 43 US cities. Duplex was previously available to a small number of Pixel owners in a few cities.

Google Assistant’s Duplex feature in action.

With the latest expansion, Duplex is now available in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

This jaw-dropping capability lets Assistant call a business like a restaurant or a hair saloon and book a reservation for you. It sounds erringly like a human, especially when Assistant casually drops “mmhmmm” in the conversation. Duplex is very simply to use: all you need to do is ask Google to book the reservation and provide a restaurant name, date and time.

Engadget has more:

If a restaurant you’d like to dine at uses an online booking service that’s partnered with Google, the AI will try to book a table for you that way. Otherwise, it’ll call the restaurant to see if the maître d’ can fit in your party. Assistant will then send you a phone notification, email and calendar invite with the details

The onstage demo at Google I/O was a recording of the actual conversation between Assistant and the person on the other end, who had no idea they were talking to a digital AI helper.

Here are a few examples of Duplex in action:

Duplex scheduling a hair salon appointment
Duplex calling a restaurant
Duplex asking for holiday hours
An example of a complex statement
Duplex handling interruptions
Duplex elaborating
Duplex responding to a sync
Duplex calling to book a meal

According to Google, Duplex technology was designed to help users complete specific tasks, such as scheduling certain types of appointments.

“For such tasks, the system makes the conversational experience as natural as possible, allowing people to speak normally, like they would to another person, without having to adapt to a machine,” said the company.

Google, on the ins and outs of Duplex tech:

The Google Duplex system is capable of carrying out sophisticated conversations and it completes the majority of its tasks fully autonomously, without human involvement.

The system has a self-monitoring capability, which allows it to recognize the tasks it cannot complete autonomously (e.g., scheduling an unusually complex appointment). In these cases, it signals to a human operator, who can complete the task.

I was wondering what’d happen if the AI got stuck, unable to resolve an order.

To train the system in a new domain, we use real-time supervised training. This is comparable to the training practices of many disciplines, where an instructor supervises a student as they are doing their job, providing guidance as needed, and making sure that the task is performed at the instructor’s level of quality.

In the Duplex system, experienced operators act as the instructors. By monitoring the system as it makes phone calls in a new domain, they can affect the behavior of the system in real time as needed. This continues until the system performs at the desired quality level, at which point the supervision stops and the system can make calls autonomously.

On the downside, many people complained that Duplex as a synthetic voice sounds too realistic, promoting privacy experts to propose that Duplex introduce itself as a robot.

Realizing its promising technology lacked transparency, Google eventually agreed to disclose these creepy AI phone calls as being made by an AI helper, not a human being.

“We are designing this feature with disclosure built-in, and we’ll make sure the system is appropriately identified,” a Google spokesperson said in a May statement, after backlash.

“What we showed at I/O was an early technology demo, and we look forward to incorporating feedback as we develop this into a product,” it added.

“It’s clear that technology can be a positive force and improve the quality of life for billions of people around the world,” Google CEO Sundar Pinchai wrote in a May 2018 blog post. “But it’s equally clear that we can’t just be wide-eyed about what we create.”

Who’s looking forward to using Duplex on their iPhone?