Google's automated reservation service, Duplex, has rolled out almost all over the US (except for Kentucky and Louisiana) after it became available as a limited test following last year's announcement at Google I/O. Over time, the company has received both criticism and praise for it, and it was certainly very interesting to see the service growing. In an interim conclusion, Google has now stated that currently about 25 percent of calls placed through the Duplex service are actually conducted by humans, and that in about 15 percent of robot calls a human has to intervene at some point.
The New York Times tested Duplex in cooperation with a couple of restaurants and Google itself. The journalists worked on their study for a few days and placed more than a dozen bookings. Of these, only four were successful, and three of these weren't conducted by the Duplex AI but an employee. Still, the New York Times managed to record that one automated call (you can check it out in the article), and it sounds eerie. If the caller didn't announce himself as a robot, I wouldn't have been able to tell the voice apart from a real one.
In the article, the magazine also makes clear that all of Google's calls are supervised by employees and that they can overtake the conversation anytime they deem it necessary – just as Google has said from the beginning. Thus, the service is still in active development and not the automated service the company advertised it as.
With Duplex becoming more widely available in the US, it's good to see it make progress, although it's clear that it's got a long way to go until it becomes the automatic booking system Google promised. In the meantime, the company is already focusing on the next big thing for Duplex: it wants the service to automatically fill out web forms for things like rental cars or movie tickets, based on your preferences.
- The New York Times