When Google showed off Duplex at its annual I/O developer conference in June, jaws dropped. This, the company said, was an evolution of the Google Assistant which is so lifelike - so intelligent - that it can place calls to hair salons and restaurants, making reservations without the human on the other end of the line noticing they're talking to a computer.
At the time, Google suggested how its Duplex technology could be used to let the Assistant make calls for you while you're busy doing something else. Assistant could book a table or arrange a haircut on your behalf, like a real personal assistant.
- Google Duplex will identify itself to the humans it calls
- Google Assistant learns to speak more naturally
- Artificial intelligence is the backbone of everything Google does
Now, large companies are reportedly looking at how they could bring the Duplex technology to call centers. According to a report by The Information, an unnamed person familiar with the plans says companies are testing the technology, with an eye on replacing some call center tasks currently performed by employees.
The report states: "Some big companies are in the very early stages of testing Google's technology for use in other applications, such as call centers, where it might be able to replace some of the work currently done by humans, according to a person familiar with the plans."
Since first demonstrating the technology, Google has addressed ethics concerns by saying the Assistant would identify itself as a piece of artificial intelligence at the start of the call.
AI technology like Google Duplex could automate the call centerGoogle
The report continues: "At least one potential customer, a large insurance company, is looking at ways it can use the technology, according to the person with knowledge of the project, including for call centers where the voice assistant could handle simple and repetitive customer calls while humans step in when the conversations get more complicated. But the ethical concerns that overshadowed the original presentation have slowed work on the project, the person said."
Another clear concern will be how such a technology affects a company's need for call center staff. Would using Google Duplex mean reducing staff number, or would the system simply reduce waiting times for callers?
Although more advanced, this application for AI isn't too dissimilar to that of Northeastern University, which is providing some of its students with an Amazon Echo smart speaker. The Device's Alexa AI assistant runs a custom skill designed to help answer simple questions, negating the need for students to call a helpline.
In response to the report, Google has issued the followed statement to the press: "We're currently focused on consumer use cases for the Duplex technology and we aren't testing Duplex with any enterprise clients...Duplex is designed to operate in very specific use cases, and currently we're focused on testing with restaurant reservations, hair salon booking, and holiday hours with a limited set of trusted testers. It's important that we get the experience right and we're taking a slow and measured approach as we incorporate learnings and feedback from our tests."