Last year at Google I/O, Google introduced Google Duplex and everyone’s collective jaw dropped. It was sci-fi brought to life – need a reservation or an appointment? Just ask your Google Assistant to do so, and voilah! Your assistant will literally call the restaurant for you, and use strikingly human sounding voice, and book the reservation with the person who answered the phone.
Google’s Duplex technology is impressive to the point where it’s actually a little jarring. As cool as it is to just ask your Google Assistant to book you a table for four at your favorite restaurant, and then five minutes later get an email from Open Table confirming the reservation, it also opens up a whole ethical debate around whether the person on the other line should be informed that she’s talking to an AI bot.
This year, however, Google introduced an update to Duplex that makes the application considerably more useful, without adding any fuel to the ethical debate fire, by focusing Duplex on helping to reduce the time spent booking all types of things online:
What makes Google Duplex and Google Assistant so powerful is Google’s ability to connect all of its properties together for the user, which results in a much more sophisticated level of assistance and a lot more utility for the user. If you use Gmail, it can read through your emails and discern information and context that way. If you use Google Maps, it will know your history of the addresses you’ve entered. If you use Chrome as your browser, Google can access things you’ve auto-filled or saved in your browser. Google calendar? Yep, it will access that.
This is the paradox with smart assistants. If we want them to continue to progress and become increasingly useful, it should be understood that it’s a trade-off. The more data that we share with our assistants (and the companies that sit behind the assistants), the more utility we can derive from them. Sharing our data with Google is what allows for someone to simply say, “rent me a car for my trip,” and have their Google Assistant navigate the process of booking that car for them and understanding what we would want.
Google has upped the ante on what’s possible with smart assistants with Duplex on the web, and is differentiating Google Assistant on the basis of utility. Google is leveraging all of its legacy properties and fusing them together to create the ultimate productivity tool with Google Assistant. It’s going to be very interesting to see how Apple and Amazon each respond to the advances that Google rolled out at this year’s developer conference.
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