I'm ecstatic to live in a Google Duplex world

By now, you've probably heard a thing or two about Google Duplex. During its annual I/O developer conference on May 8, Google debuted its Duplex technology by showing it calling a hair salon and restaurant to make an appointment and reservation on someone's behalf.

In both instances, the AI was able to have a natural conversation with the human on the other end, understand what they were saying, and get everything booked just like it had been asked.

Most everyone watching this demonstration seemed to be floored about it at the time, but since then, there have been a number of articles criticising Google for even creating something like this and airing their concerns about what sort of impact this will have on our world.

Although I understand some of the apprehension surrounding this technology, I'm beyond excited for this tech to make its way into people's hands. Here's why.

Duplex is already jaw-dropping at such an early stage

It'll likely be a while before Google Duplex makes its way into a consumer-focused product that's available for anyone to use, and while that long wait is a bit of a bummer, it makes Duplex that much more impressive.

Just imagine where Duplex will be in a year's time.

Google's clearly not done working on Duplex and will continue to improve upon it as we inch closer and closer to its release, and when that day eventually comes around, Duplex will be even better than what we saw last Tuesday.

If this technology is already as human-sounding and capable as it is in this current form, imagine where it could be after a few more months of hard work.

Duplex is only going to get better as time goes on, and while that's something we see with a lot of Google's products, it's especially exciting here.

It can turn the Assistant into the ultimate virtual helper

Moving away from the technical side of things, let's take a look at how Google chose to show off Duplex for this first time – through the Google Assistant.

The Assistant was first announced a couple years back as a part of Google's Allo messaging app, and it's since made its way to smartphones, watches, tablets, TVs, speakers, and more. No matter where you access the Assistant, however, it always has the same intent of helping out where it can to make your life as easy as possible.

In its current form, the Assistant already does a great job at this. Asking it to turn off smart lights is easier than manually flipping switches throughout the house, ordering movie tickets with just your voice takes less time than fumbling with an app or website, and being able to set timers, ask about the weather, or call your friend without having to touch any sort of screen allows for multi-tasking that simply wasn't possible a few years back.

That theme of making your life easier is seen through just about everything the Assistant does, and with Duplex, it's going to be elevated to a point that's never been seen before.

Duplex elevates the Assistant to a level of helpfulness we've never seen from Alexa or Siri.

As necessary as they sometimes are, phone calls can be time-consuming, clunky, and a pain in the butt. However, they still need to get done.

With Duplex, we'll be able to call upon the Assistant we already know and love, ask it to make an appointment on our behalf, and not have to worry about a thing. The Assistant will use Duplex to call that business, get everything squared away, and add that event to your calendar – all while you focus on whatever else needs your attention.

That level of interaction is something only human assistants were previously capable of, and it's wild to think we're already at a point where something like this is possible.

The possibilities are endless

As exciting as all of this, we're just talking about one specific use case for this technology. Google may have only shown off Duplex calling a hair salon and restaurant, but it certainly won't limit Duplex to just those two use cases.

It's difficult to imagine exactly where else Duplex could be integrated, but at least on the subject of Assistant, there are a few things that come to mind. If Duplex allows the Assistant to call places like salons and restaurants, what about personal calls to friends and family? Say you want to make plans for a movie or tell your spouse you're on the way home from work. Why wouldn't Duplex be able to handle these things?

Furthermore, what about when Google decides to expand Duplex beyond the Assistant? What sort of use cases could we see of this technology in Maps, YouTube, Android Messages, Gmail, etc. Why not use this Duplex voice as the default one for the Assistant? The implications for accessibility are also staggering.

There are so many paths Google can take with what it's created, and these unknown possibilities are thrilling.

Are you ready for a Duplex world?

Google Duplex is unlike anything we've seen before, and while that's admittedly a bit scary, I'm still incredibly optimistic to see how it evolves and affects our world as time goes on.

Google's already addressed that Duplex will make people aware that it's not human when making phone calls on our behalf, and I'm sure we'll see more conversations about the ethicality of everything over the coming weeks and months.

Duplex is the first technology of its kind, and I'm ecstatic to be able to experience this first hand and see where we go from here.

Google I/O 2018: All the big announcements!

Joe Maring

Joe Maring was a Senior Editor for Android Central between 2017 and 2021. You can reach him on Twitter at @JoeMaring1.

  • "what about personal calls to friends and family? Say you want to make plans for a movie or tell your spouse you're on the way home from work. Why wouldn't Duplex be able to handle these things?" First, let me just say that I too feel the potential with Duplex is pretty incredible, but to somewhat take the "devil's advocate" approach........ Beyond the scheduling of appointments (because lets be honest, those types of calls are just tedious...), the examples you gave above like calling family members........what's the real "advantage" of having the "assistant" do that for you?!?! Why wouldn't you want to have that PERSONAL interaction directly with a family member?? Or better yet, if it's just to let the wife know you're on your way home......why not tell the assistant to just send her a text message of the same content? And back to scheduling appointments.......maybe a "better" approach would be to work to eliminate the "calling" aspect of that type of activity and push for even more online scheduling capabilities from places such as the salon or to get restaurants on-board with.....oh, maybe a little service called OpenTable. Then you just tell the assistant to schedule it and there's no real "phone" interaction aspect at all. Still pretty cool examples of what the Assistant can potentially become.
  • I for one, don't want to download an app for every appointment I might have to make (and I don't make many).
    I walked in to get my hair cut last Month: "Did you check in online? " Me: "No"
    ..Guy walks in later who checked in online, goes before me -sigh.
    I go home download the damn app for next time, give it my email address, phone number, space on my phone, random emails now in my inbox.. Then totally forgot about it last Friday. I'll have Google make that phone call next time :)
  • Next time tell your hair cutter you are taking your business elsewhere. P*ssing on a customer because they don't have an app is poor customer service and just plain rude. It really is time to put this fad out of our misery before it becomes further entrenched.
  • No appointments needed where I go, just walk in, take a seat and wait and that how it used to be, certainly for men, I know women sometimes made an appointment, but their hair sometimes take a long time to do, but most men, it is just a cut or trim. Anyway, no need for Duplex to get my hair cut.
  • We are now entering into a world where Terminators will rise and the machines will attempt to destroy humans...
  • Before they get to destroying us, there may be a happy period of time where they are doing uncomfortable tasks for us, like breaking up with significant others on our behalf :) Great parody video...
  • The whole telling the user its a GA kinda ruins it for me. I can see a lot of people just hanging up
  • I thought the same thing at first. However, businesses are in business to make money. If they hang up on a GA call, they will likely lose that appointment, and possibly a customer for life. Adapt or go out of business.
  • Only a small portion of businesses will realize this
  • Oh I dunno about that. I view it more as "fair turnaround". If businesses expect their customers to have to navigate call-bots, then those same businesses shouldn't complain when they have to interact with a call-bot in return.
  • Right?? This is what I thought about first, flip the tables on those GD automated answering service.
  • Great piece, Joe. At least someone in the tech media community can write something about Duplex and not have it be a "sky is falling" article. Duplex demonstrated an incredible advancement in technology and I, like you, am truly looking forward to exploring the possibilities.
  • Yep - same here... An improvement is always good. So I think this is a step forward, not back.
  • Any individual that delegates that sort of contact in a personal relationship, will be promptly blocked. That is an unambiguous statement of disrespect and lack of value.
  • "Say you want to make plans for a movie or tell your spouse you're on the way home from work. Why wouldn't Duplex be able to handle these things?" If my husband did that. I would think to myself so he has enough time to tell Google Assistant to do that but hes too bothered to make a call himself. It was funny I was over at one of my friends house. His son had a couple of friends over they were in his room none of them were talking to each other they were just texting each other. Sometimes I think we become phone zombies. It's strange I have a couple of relatives that still live in Germany and we actually write letters to each other and I look forward to that more than an email......
  • We do it today through text messages. I see no reason to start using voice for that instead of just sending a text message. Maybe for vision impaired users?
  • I guess me and my husband are the outliers. Because if I'm running late or want to go on a movie date I'll actually call him or he'll call me. Or we will wait until we see each other and we'll talk about what movie we want to see. Then again when we go to a restaurant neither of us have our phones by our side we don't look at them. We actually talk to each other.. Most likely probably a generational thing we're both over 50.
  • I see this as an alternative... How many times have we gotten busy with meetings, agendas etc. and have forgotten to call...? I know I have. Okay Google - make a reservation, set a reminder that if I don't leave work by a certain time to send either a text or message, I can think of countless ways this could work for me... Is it impersonal? Yes. Courteous or professional? Possible. Improper? Depending on the situation. Lack of doing anything or simply do nothing to communicate at all? Wrong in all instances. I'll use it, and I'm curious how this is going to work out.
  • Besides some gee-whiz geekiness about it, I really only see it as useful for people who cant speak due to injury, illness, etc. I would probably never use it for mundane tasks, and certainly not to contact friends or family.
  • As someone who has to sit on the phone for sometimes more than a couple of hours to make an appointment, I could see this as useful. I'd rather not keep my phone on speaker for a long period of time waiting to get through to a live operator. I'd rather it could happen automagically through the gift of AI.  
  • Am I the only one to find this creepy? What happens when the assistant calls my boss instead of my girlfriend and ask him if he wants to meet me at a restaurant for a romantic dinner and more??
  • Really? Don't see this happening, since it has to call specifically who you specified. The onus of giving the wrong number would be on you. Not on Duplex. 
  • I do see it happening, and the onus IS on Google/Duplex not me. Right now, if I ask my phone to send a text or call my wife or one of my kids, half the time it chooses the wrong person. And when it does get the right person, half that time it chooses the wrong phone (home vs cell). It's like the AI gets confused by all of them having the same home number.
  • Two different issues here. The whole "creepy" bit is manufactured and overblown. As for the issue of making a mistake, I would think it's a LOT less likely that the AI is going to make a mistake than a human. And people make these kinds of mistakes all the time.
  • It’s not because something is impressive that it should be done.... i think the future those kind of features is teasing is not a very good one in the long run....
  • Google assistant makes Siri look like a potato
  • Wheatley made GLaDOS into a potato.
  • This is a HUGE step forward. Imagine what duplex can do when put in a robot and given its own autonomous freedom.
  • Google is the leader and just raised the bar with Duplex and I can't see Siri, Cortana or even Alexa coming close to what Duplex can do. Google does it again. Nobody can touch Google in AI.
  • Yeah they just keep digging into your data and life more and more and people like you just give it all to them.
  • 100% agree, the sad part is people do not realise.
    Sadly it is not just google, all these companies, like Microsoft, facebook, Amazon and others are doing the same thing.
  • Why are we so lazy. Why can't we interact with ppl on our own anymore? We are that busy we can't schedule appointments ourselves anymore? Lmao, oh we are so in trouble,...
  • Agreed 100%! It's a completely unnecessary technology
  • Do you ride in a car? Do you have an indoor bathroom? How about an electric stove? Do you use a cell phone? Email? All of these things were once brand new pieces of technology that I'm sure people said the same thing about. "Why would anyone want to buy a loud stinky automobile when my horse works just fine?" This is just the next step.
  • @cjones im with you 100%. Hey you mean with can just turn this faucet and water will just come out. No way we are so lazy we can't just go down to the well and get some water. No wait we need a well too people are so lazy why can't they just go to the stream like our parents did. Not saying google duplex is will change everything but its interesting and lets see where this goes and how society will do some crazy stuff with it (positive and negative)
  • Not the same thing, a car can take you further than a horse and faster, a indoor bathroom is warmer, than going outside to have a pee and an electric stove, make cooking easier. This duplex thing is for lazy people and google to make more money.
  • You don't think people said the same thing about that new fangled automobile? I'm sure they did. I'm not saying this will be as life changing as the car or indoor plumbing but we must not simply discount new technology just because it is "different" then what we are use to. I know that CHANGE IS HARD, but it is necessary to move forward.
  • Yep, you are not wrong.
  • I see a lot of potential with Duplex, and I absolutely think that the whole "creepy" thing is just people looking for something to be upset about. On the other hand, there are very few case, in my opinion, where calling friends and family on your behalf is a good idea. Calling someone to schedule a work appointment (whether it's at work or for personal services) is not something we do as part of a relationship. Calling your spouse, on the other hand, IS. Relationship building is NOT the place for AI.
  • Not for me, i would not use anything like that. People getting too lazy now to pick up the phone.
  • « Say you want to make plans for a movie or tell your spouse you're on the way home from work. Why wouldn't Duplex be able to handle these things? » Because I am polite, because i don’t want to make ither people think that they are not worth my time !!