Google demos AI making life-like phone call to book hair appointment

Google chief executive Sundar Pichai demos the new AI tech.

Google wowed the crowd at its annual IO conference in the US with a demo that saw Google Assistant (the search giant's equivalent of Apple's Siri) handle a complete call to a hair salon.

Google Assistant doesn't reveal itself as an AI during the call, and even uses  "hmms" and "huh-huhs" to make itself sound human. 

The AI also overcomes a simple problem – the desired appointment time not being available – presumably by consulting with the user's calendar.

NBR wonders how Google Assistant would have gone if there had been any other complication. 

A user might always be itching to call themselves to ensure an AI had successfully managed to make an appointment (though confirmation emails or txts will help in that department).

And there was also immediate speculation on social media about whether the call might have been staged.

But Google chief executive Sundar Pichai (who features the clip below) reiterated that this was a real call. “The amazing thing is that Assistant can actually understand the nuances of conversation. We’ve been working on this technology for many years. It’s called Google Duplex," he said.

If a call does go off the rails, Duplex will inform the user, who can then take over the call, he said (Google has posted more technical details here).

How well it will work in the real world remains to be seen.

But it's an impressive demo.

Watch it below.

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2 Comments & Questions

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We could think of this call as analogous to the Wright brothers' aeroplane. The future potential applications are staggering. And not all socially desirable.

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Amazon and Google are embracing conversational audio Ai operating systems as key component of their respective Ai strategy but without neglecting visual rich media integrations, this will kill Facebook's revenue projections which is based on monetizing Messenger through its text-based chatbot ecosystem , i.e. lacks a proper voice-activated Ai system.

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