Everyone Is Flipping Out About Google’s AI Assistant That Just Booked A Haircut On The Phone

Soon you might be able to make robo calls instead of just receiving them. Oh, and they'll actually be useful.

5. 8. 18 by Victor Tangermann
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Image by Getty Images

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.


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.

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