Recently, Google held its yearly I/O keynote or ‘Developer Festival’. Over the course of two days, Google brought together developers from around the world to participate in workshops, sandboxes, discussions and to learn hands-on from Google developers on their products. At the very beginning of the festival, Google CEO Sunder Pichai presented his keynote on new technology Google is releasing, as well as what they are currently working on.
While his 1.5-hour keynote was extremely informative, one thing stood out to techies the most: Google Duplex. While this technology is still being developed, and most likely won’t be in full release until 2020, the demonstrations were extremely impressive.
Google Duplex is an add-on to Google’s already impressive Google Assistant. I personally use Google Assistant on my iPhone over Siri, as well as all over my house with Google Home and Google Mini(s). The addition of Google Duplex takes the term ‘Assistant’ to an entirely new level. Instead of just being limited to asking it repetitive questions like, “Hey, Google, what time is it?” or “Hey, Google, what’s the weather like today?” or giving it simple tasks like “Hey, Google, turn on the backyard lights” or “Hey, Google, set a timer for 20 minutes” …Google Assistant will now be able to speak to actual humans for you, by setting appointments and reservations with actual businesses over the phone as though it were your actual assistant.
See the example below:
Not only do these examples demonstrate that variable conditions, like not having the exact time you asked for available or speaking to someone with a heavy accent, are easy for Duplex to deal with, but they added the human element of random sounds that people make like “mmmhmm” and “um” to keep the person on the other line convinced that they are speaking to a person and not a robot. Those additional sounds clearly are not needed, but do aid in keeping the conversation moving so the person on the other line does not hang up once they realize they are, in fact, speaking to a robot. This can have a profound impact on digital marketing & overall marketing strategy.
After this was released, we sat down at the start of Lumi Lowdown and discussed the following questions regarding this new technology:
- Do you think this technology is needed/cool? Would you use it?
- If you were that person on the other line, speaking to it, and didn’t know it was a robot, but found out later, how would you feel?
- Do you think this is ethically questionable, completely unethical, or totally fine?
- What jobs would be at risk with this new technology?
Of course, most of the team loved the idea of it. The overall response was, “Now I never have to speak to anyone on the phone again!”. However, we did see the moral implications of “duping” the person on the other line. It’s obvious why Google does this, whenever I hear a robot on my phone I instantly hang up. I think the biggest question is: what happens when you get a robot on the other line, as well? Will I pick up my phone one day thinking I am speaking to my accountant’s secretary about my upcoming tax appointment only to realize when I get to his office a secretary doesn’t exist?
Ultimately, this will be something to keep an eye on as it continues to be tested and developed. Google already surpasses Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft with its voice control capabilities, so it will undoubtedly continue to be a disruptor for the future of this technology.