Google's Assistant AI is getting better every year. It can tell you the weather, or perhaps crack a terrible joke if that's more your speed. Give it another year or two, and it'll be able to pre-order your lunch before you even had your morning coffee.
But more immediately, it might be able to make calls and book your appointments in a very-natural-sounding human voice, if a recent demo is to be believed.
At this year's Google I/O developer's conference in Mountain View, Google demoed a very natural-sounding Google Assistant making an appointment over the phone — a feature it calls Google Duplex. This wasn't just auto-filling an online form — according to various recordings tweeted from the conference, this was a phone call between Google's AI Assistant and a human working at a salon.
A machine playing the part of a human? Well someone nudge forward the Doomsday Clock, the singularity is almost here.
This is bananas. Google Assistant just called to book a haircut for someone. #io18 pic.twitter.com/gr2V0NjfiH
— Daniel Bader (@journeydan) May 8, 2018
With practically no delay, Google's AI seemed to navigate the conversation effortlessly. Granted, it didn't take too much back-and-forth to settle on a time.
But it's eerie to listen to. The lines between human and AI have been tremendously blurred; it's nearly impossible to tell the cheerful salon worker from Google's Assistant. The intonation was spot on, and far from monotonous, or robotic. The AI even threw in a couple of "uh's" and "hmm's," before it answered, the way a real human would.
Whether or not it lives up to its demo, Google's Duplex feature shows how far AI has come. But we might have to wait a bit until we can find out for ourselves. "We are still developing this technology," CEO Sundar Pichai announced after the demo at Google I/O. Duplex will be rolled out to a limited number of testers as part of an "experiment in the coming weeks."
Duplex wasn't the only impressive AI feature announced at the conference. Google also announced a Smart Compose feature that can write emails for you, expanding on its "canned response"-style Smart Reply feature. Google's AI can even colorize black-and-white photos now using machine learning and advanced object recognition. Oh, and John Legend's silky-smooth voice could be the one to book those hair appointments for you, instead of the boring default Assistant's.
But Duplex definitely seems to be the most impressive — and, perhaps, the most useful. I, for one, can't wait to outsource all of my phone calls to a robotic assistant.