As promised last month, Google is rolling out its Duplex service to Pixel phones in ‘select cities.
Duplex is the company’s next-generation virtual helper. The Google Duplex technology is built to sound natural, to make the conversation experience comfortable. This automated service calls up businesses to make bookings on your behalf, be it restaurant, salon and many more without moving an inch.
The search giant’s human-sounding artificial intelligence call service is available to a “small group” of Pixel owners in “select cities,” VentureBeat reported Wednesday. It started in June.
Google confirmed the accuracy of its statement to VentureBeat, but declined to add any further details. A spokesperson told VentureBeat: “We’re currently ramping up the ability to book restaurant reservations through the Google Assistant over the phone using Duplex technology … To help deliver a good experience to Pixel users and to businesses, we’re starting with a slow rollout and will expand to more Pixel users as we continue to ramp up.”
VentureBeat notes that New York, Atlanta, Phoenix and San Francisco were previously announced as the pilot locations. Google Assistant will only make English-speaking calls in the cities that Google has specifically selected for the trial. It’s unclear how long it’ll take for the service to overcome each of these limitations, but since Google is recording all its current Duplex calls it’s likely to be gathering a lot of important usage data now that the rollout has begun.
The outlet noted that Duplex currently only manages restaurant reservations, and that it managed to successfully book tables every time it could reach those establishments. The service only works in English, and is still in testing, just with a larger group of users than before.
Presently, pixel phones are the only supported device, meaning no smart displays or other handsets.
How Google Duplex works
A reservation is been communicated to google duplex with information of the specific place. Then it proceeds to confirm the date, time, how many people will be dining, and other relevant details. After confirming the details with you, Assistant calls the restaurant and tells them everything. It’s impressive that Google has trained its Assistant so well that it can hear even the thickest accents. Of course, Assistant warns the business at first that the call may be recorded.
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.
At the core of Duplex is a recurrent neural network (RNN) designed to cope with challenges, built using TensorFlow Extended (TFX). To obtain its high precision, Duplex’s RNN was trained on a corpus of anonymized phone conversation data. The network uses the output of Google’s automatic speech recognition (ASR) technology, as well as features from the audio, the history of the conversation, the parameters of the conversation (e.g. the desired service for an appointment, or the current time of day) and more. Hyperparameter optimization from TFX was used by google to further improve the technology.
Duplex is not the first AI to order food effectively through chat or to be so lifelike that it can confuse people into thinking it’s human. Viv, an assistant built by Siri’s founders, was a nimble pizza orderer and there are still more AI with this function out there.
But Google’s virtual assistant has a lead over competitors because of the vast data collection it uses to train its AI. And that’s pushing it into the mainstream faster than anyone else.