Duplex, Google's machine learning-powered concierge service, spent most of the year in mothballs — at least when it came to its primary intent of booking its users tables at restaurants — but as we inch from mid-pandemic toward post-pandemic normality, the public need for on-site services has become evident. All of that to say that Duplex is now able to book appointments for salons and barber shops in the United States.

Booking a haircut was one of the first tasks demonstrated when Google debuted the service at I/O 2018. The company confirmed the rollout to VentureBeat.

The consumer workflow is much the same as booking a restaurant or even the current Google-run UI to schedule with a hairstylist through OpenSalon. Users can tap on "Request an Appointment" when looking through Search or Maps or ask the Assistant itself.

Images: VentureBeat

Customers select one of three options: Men's haircut, Women's haircut, and General haircut. They select when they'd like to book and also if they're flexible enough to accept a range of times of their own choice. Last come personal details including name, phone number, and email address. Optionally, they can indicate if they've been to this business before and request a specific barber or dresser.

After wrapping that process up, Google takes care of the rest by having Duplex with its extremely human-like WaveNet voice call the business, declare itself as a robot and that it is recording the call, and confirm details. If the receptionist refuses to be recorded or responds in a way that the AI can't quite catch, Google will bring an operator on the line who will take notes of the call to feed to Duplex for training.

This is Duplex's second major consumer-facing expansion, having adopted movie ticket orders last fall. Google had used Duplex to ask businesses, including those outside the U.S., for updated hours and inventory information during the earlier COVID-19 lockdowns.