For a long time, Apple held the title for its innovations. However, nothing in particular really stood out to me from this year’s 2018 WWDC Keynote event. Interestingly, I recently came across a demo of Google’s AI Assistant called, Google Duplex. The technology is smart enough to handle simple tasks, like booking an appointment. I was definitely impressed by the demo.
Take a listen:
I’m not at all surprised by progress with the technology, given the success of voice assistant like ‘Siri’ or ‘Hey Google’. Rather, I am surprised by how the technology is smart enough to pick up the nuances of a conversation. I am also surprised that the designers included human speech disfluency (i.e. “uh huh”) to make it more human sounding. I haven’t decided if that’s smart or just plain creepy!
Some additional thoughts aside from the wow factor of the demo:
1. Ethical Bounds: Disclosure
The first thing I noticed from the demo was a lack of disclosure that the caller is speaking to a bot. Fortunately, it appears that a disclosure is included based on this reporter’s test demo.
I received a few human sounding “bot” calls this year, but I quickly figured out I wasn’t speaking to a human when the “caller” couldn’t deviate from the script. I found it creepy. And annoying. I’d want to know if I’m talking to a bot if I’m going to be on the other end of a call.
2. Duplex Handles Simple Tasks (Initially)
The AI assistant is designed to handle simple tasks. Things like “booking restaurant reservations, haircut appointments, and answering inquiries about business hours.” I think these simple tasks are just at the tip of the iceberg. I don’t see why the technology can’t be expanded eventually to handle more complex tasks, like making flight or hotel reservations. This is an area where I see the greatest potential for it to be a disruptive technology.
3. Decline of Human Connection (Maybe?)
Everyone is glued to their devices these days. A lot of the communication is already done via emails and text. People aren’t even using a phone to make calls as its primary function anymore. While I love technology, there is something unique about making a connection with another human being. This whole AI assistant thing – while impressive and efficient – makes me slightly wary of the potential impact it might have on human connections and social behaviors over time.
There are other implications too. For example, if I know that an AI bot is calling me, I’m more inclined NOT to want to pick up the call. But, do I even have a choice if I’m running a business?
What do you think about the Google demo and the future of Google Duplex?