Skip to main content

Featured Post

Buzzcocks - Singles Going Steady Music Album Reviews

Each Sunday, Pitchfork takes an in-depth look at a significant album from the past, and any record not in our archives is eligible. Today, we revisit a punk classic, a paragon of songwriting about the pain and joy of love.
The late Pete Shelley of Buzzcocks once told NME: “Before we do a song, I make sure that song is going to stand the test of time.” It was a ridiculous thing to say, especially in 1978. Punk had sprung into the global consciousness a year earlier thanks largely to the release of the Sex Pistols’ debut album, Never Mind the Bollocks, and was already being declared obsolete, a failed revolution whose initial shock had immediately faded into tame self-parody. As quick as punk emerged, a throng of bands started drifting away from the rock’n’roll punch of punk toward a broader post-punk sound. The original movement seemed happy to be a fleeting thing, a bomb that went off leaving nothing but shrapnel.



What is Google Duplex?

The stakes for the best digital assistant were raised significantly by Google after it announced Duplex.

Rather than answering your questions about the weather, traffic conditions, or location of the nearest coffee shops - as the Assistant does currently - Google Duplex does something quite different: it makes phone calls and books appointments for you.

Did AI just became genuinely useful, or are things getting weird way too fast?

Does Google Duplex make phone calls?
Yes. And it seems to do it rather well.

Google Duplex is an extension to the Google Assistant app that you may currently have on your Android or iOS device. It allows you to ask the Assistant to arrange a simple task that will involve calling, for example, a store, salon, or restaurant. This could be for the purposes of making you an appointment or just finding out when the place will be open.

Once the request is made, Duplex will make the call and then have a real, live conversation with whomever answers the phone.

While this might sound a bit like something out of Star Trek, Google seems very confident that the technology can mimic human speech to the point where the person on the other end of the line will never know that they spoke with software rather than a human.
At the recent Google I/O developer event the company’s CEO, Sundar Pichai, demonstrated Duplex in action by playing recordings of actual calls placed by the Assistant.

The first example saw Duplex ring a hairdresser and book an appointment on a certain day and time. It did this using language which appeared natural, and even included pauses, changes in inflection, and the occasional ‘erm’ and ‘ah’ to seem authentic.

Duplex both asked and answered questions, as you would in a normal conversation, and completed the task without giving away its non-human status.

Pichai then played a second example, which was more impressive as it featured a person at a restaurant with a strong accent who answered questions in a slightly awkward fashion.

Not only did the Assistant decipher the necessary information, it did so with an ease that some humans might have found difficult.

How does Google Duplex work?
Google has been selective in the tasks that Duplex can attempt so that it doesn’t get confused or lost in the weeds. This makes it honed specifically for service-related conversations. In a blog post that announced the technology, Google made the reasons for this clear.

‘The technology is directed towards completing specific tasks, such as scheduling certain types of appointments…One of the key research insights was to constrain Duplex to closed domains, which are narrow enough to explore extensively. Duplex can only carry out natural conversations after being deeply trained in such domains. It cannot carry out general conversations.’

So, while you can ask Duplex to book a table for dinner, you shouldn’t expect it to sweet-talk your insurance company into paying for the laptop you poured coffee over.

At the heart of Duplex is something Google calls a Recurrent Neural Network (RNN), which works out not only the words spoken but the context in which they are being used.

‘To obtain its high precision, we trained Duplex’s RNN on a corpus of anonymized phone conversation data’ Google reported in its blog. ‘The network uses the output of Google’s automatic speech recognition (ASR) technology, as well as features from the audio, the history of the conversation, the parameters of the conversation (e.g. the desired service for an appointment, or the current time of day) and more. We trained our understanding model separately for each task, but leveraged the shared corpus across tasks.’

So far, Duplex has only been seen on the stage at Google I/O, but the company says that it will start letting some users experiment with the technology in the summer.

Isn’t it a bit creepy?
While the technological achievement of the demonstrations is, frankly, amazing, there has already been much discussion over whether software pretending to be human is something of an ethical issue.

Should the Assistant announce what it is at the start of a conversation? Is it demeaning to the staff member engaged in the conversation? Who is responsible if there is a booking error? 

With Google limiting the scope of Duplex to scheduling appointments, it seems that the company is playing things quite safe. Sure, there could be mix ups here and there, but hopefully nothing serious.

As the technology is still in its early stages, there will no doubt be time for these ethical questions problems to be addressed in the public realm as well as in the development labs at Google.  

Of course, it does open the door to a day when you ask your phone to arrange tickets for the 25th Avengers movie, and when it calls the cinema it finds itself talking to another Duplex at the other end.

Douglas Adams once wrote of how humans had gotten bored of TV and therefore invented devices to watch shows for them (video recorders), it seems that very soon we’ll be retiring a few well-worn conversations too.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Popular posts from this blog

Oppo RX17 Pro Review

Though similar to the OnePlus 6T the Oppo RX17 Pro is very different thanks to the software. Here’s our full review
Should I Buy The Oppo RX17 Pro?
The RX17 Pro is a great looking phone with good performance and a lush display. But with a Snapdragon 710 rather than the better 845 it’s just impossible not to compare it to the OnePlus 6T which looks the same, has better software for the western market and, importantly, costs less.
If you like the look of Oppo’s interface though then there’s a lot to like. The two colour options are premium as is the build quality and the cameras are above average if not great.

2019 Lincoln Continental Review

If you’re tired of the same old luxury options, the 2019 Lincoln Continental provides a refreshingly retro-cool alternative.
The 2019 Lincoln Continental is a big, luxurious American sedan at a time when Americans are hardly buying big, luxurious American sedans anymore. Regardless, it’s a throwback ride with plenty of character, great value, lots of power, and a classic nameplate. We give it 7.5 out of 10 overall.
Among European and Japanese rivals with established models – S-Class, 7 Series, LS – this Lincoln stands out for several reasons, chief among them its nameplate. With the Continental, Lincoln has one of the most storied American car names.

Moto Z4 Play Release Date, Price & Spec Rumours

We investigate rumours surrounding the Moto Z4 Play, which could be announced in June 2019 with an in-display fingerprint sensor.
Announced in June 2018, the Moto Z3 Play was never joined in the UK by the standard Moto Z3. It's possible that for the Z4 series we will again see only the Play model go on sale here, with the Moto Z4 Play expected to be announced in the UK in mid-2019.

Synology Mesh Router MR2200ac Review

You probably know Synology for making NAS drives but the firm has also turned its hand to mesh networks. Here we review the MR2200ac.
Should I Buy The Synology Mesh Router MR2200ac?
Synology could do a little more to explain the many features of the MR2200ac for first-time users, but the strong performance of this mesh system, and the fine-control provided by its web browser interface make it a good option for business users or home users who have a little more experience of networking technology.

Best kids' Tablets 2019

If you want to buy your child a tablet, here are the best and the most affordable out there to ensure they get the most suitable tablet for their age By Simon Jary | 02 Jan 2019

Like Fan Page