When we first got to see Google demo its new Duplex service at I/O earlier this year, it was an absolute eye-opener. Digital assistants were evolving to the point where they could effortlessly interact with the general public, able to handle the messy uncertainties of language well enough to make phone calls on our behalf. Ever since, we've been aching for a chance to put this power to use for ourselves, and for a lucky new group of users, that day is finally arriving.
Duplex has been undergoing heavy testing in advance of its public debut, but most recently that's only extended to a vetted group of trusted users. Last month, though, we learned that broader availability was just around the corner, with plans to make Duplex accessible on Pixel phones in select metropolitan areas starting in November.
Google has now confirmed that expansion is underway beyond that limited testing group. The company's exhibiting some caution, and only allowing a "small group" of Pixel users to access Duplex at this time, but that's still a major step forward. As we previously learned, initial availability is restricted to the New York, Atlanta, Phoenix, and the San Francisco Bay Area metro regions, though both the list of supported areas and the pool of Pixel owners able to access Duplex will slowly be expanded.
Assuming the stars align for you and you happen to hit all those notes, you'll be able to ask Assistant to make a restaurant reservation for you and see a "request a table" button appear under the restaurant's listing — it won't work everywhere, and Google's already confirmed an opt-out process for businesses, but if you see that button you're good to proceed.
At that point, Assistant will ask you to confirm the size of your party, your preferred dining time, some backup times, and the phone number you'd like associated with your reservation. Duplex won't let you book parties larger than 10, or schedule reservations years out in advance, but is otherwise happy to try to accommodate your needs.
If Duplex isn't able to get through straight away, it will keep trying to call back, and display your reservation as "pending" until it's able to make contact and confirm.
Venture Beat was not only able to get the video of Duplex in action on a Pixel that you saw above, but also one from the restaurant's point of view. We may see this experience evolve slightly as Google continues to troubleshoot and refine its operation, but this is already pretty exciting and we can't wait to see it expand and become available to new users, in new regions, and across additional devices.
Since first posting this story we've been hearing from users who have managed to successfully place reservations with the help of Duplex. It also looks like availability is expanding slightly, as we've received reports of Duplex working with business in Southern California — and specifically, Orange County.
We're still not to the point where Google seems ready to flip the switch on a nationwide roll-out, but it's nonetheless good to hear that more and more users are having the chance to try out Duplex for themselves.
- Venture Beat