- Google Duplex could be a huge advancement in the artificial intelligence of virtual assistants.
- The demos make it seem like a massive leap in A.I. tech, but is Google really about to revolutionize the way we communicate?
- When will Duplex be able to do all the little things that you don’t want to, like having “the talk” with your significant other?
A small Silicon Valley startup going by the name “Google” put its latest developments in artificial intelligence on display this week.
At its annual I/O Conference, the tech giant demonstrated the all-too-human capabilities of Google Duplex, which, when rolled out to the public, will be the newest feature of Google Assistant, Google’s foray into the virtual-assistant marketplace (effectively, its version of Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa).
The demonstration showed Google Duplex scheduling appointments and making dinner reservations over the phone, with a human on the other end of the line. Those humans had no idea they were speaking with a robot. Unlike Siri, the voice of Duplex is complete with human mannerisms, like ums and ahs, and rising intonation.
[The humans on the other end of the call] had no idea they were speaking with a robot.
Instead of describing just how eerily human Duplex comes across, it’s easier if you watch for yourself:
Before you start celebrating/panicking that Spike Jonze’s Her has become reality, it should be noted that these were recordings, not live demonstrations. Google has acknowledged that Duplex is not ready to be rolled out, and that not all of Duplex’s calls have gone so smoothly.
But the demos, nonetheless, paint a vivid portrait of what lies ahead: a world in which robots take care of the minutiae of your day-to-day, freeing you up to focus on the important parts of life, like climate change, global denuclearization, and the President of the United States paying off porn stars.
When will Duplex be able to reliably do what it was able to do in the demos? Let’s set some odds.
Google Duplex Odds
Odds Duplex will be able to (reliably) do the following by May 2019
|Call a store to see if a product is available||1/9|
|Call a taxi||1/9|
|Book a doctor’s appointment||1/6|
|Call your cable company automatically when your internet is down||1/6|
|Politely screen your incoming calls||1/4|
|Haggle with a salesperson||1/3|
|Call Microsoft tech support*||1/2|
|Book a hotel in multiple foreign languages||3/4|
|Call your bookie to place a bet||5/1|
|Break-up with your significant other||19/1|
|Negotiate an NBA trade better than Danny Ainge||199/1|
|Negotiate an NBA trade better than Sam Presti||1/1|
*It’s not that Duplex won’t have the capacity to do so, but Microsoft might try to block Duplex calls. The industry is terribly petty, you see.
Odds Duplex will be able to make intelligent small-talk on the following when released to the public
|The most recent episode of “American Idol”||1/3|
|President Trump’s latest gaffe||1/2|
|Cardi B vs Nicki Minaj||1/1|
|Where LeBron James should sign||2/1|
|The plot to Cloud Atlas||3/1|
|North Korean denuclearization||6/1|
Over/Under minutes Duplex will wait on hold: 119.5
Odds the following celebrities will lend their voices to Google Assistant
|James Earl Jones||49/1|
|Sir David Attenborough||74/1|
One of the other big announcements at the I/O conference was that Google Assistant now has six new voices, including the dulcet tones of John Legend.
“Hey Google, can you make it romantic as **** up in here?”
Teigan and Durant featured in Google Assistant commercials, just like Legend, but they don’t have the distinctive, soothing voices users are likely hoping for. That’s where your Morgan Freemans of the world come in.
Virtual Assistant/Smart Home Odds
Impact of virtual assistants on humanity
|O/U jobs lost in the US service industry due to virtual assistants by 2020||19,999|
|Odds Google Assistant is eventually used for telemarketing (despite Google’s statements to the contrary)||1/4|
|O/U date when robots perform >99% of outbound telemarketing||Dec. 31, 2023|
|O/U date of last human-to-human phone call||Dec. 31, 2035|
|O/U date when an American files for a marriage license with Google Duplex||Jan. 31, 2019|
Think 20,000 is an unreasonably high number for job-loss? Over 100 million Americans are employed in the service industry, so 20,000 is only about .02% of the entire industry. It’s a conservative projection, if anything, if Duplex is actually able do what Google promises.
The shrinking number of humans who still hold telemarketing jobs are particularly at risk, even though Google has stated that the Duplex technology won’t be used to make robocalls. (Remember when Google search results were completely ad-free? Sigh.)
Smart-home market-share battle
|DEVICE||MARKET SHARE AS OF FEB. 2018||O/U MARKET SHARE BY 2020|
Right now, Amazon’s smart-home device, the Echo, is crushing the competition. It was, all importantly, first to market, carving out a huge lead that it’s largely maintained. According to Fortune, Echo has 55% market share as of February 2018, compared to 23% for Google Home, 15% for Cortana-linked devices, and 3% for the just-released HomePod.
However, as the leader in what’s turning into a hyper-competitive industry, it’s likely that Amazon falls a little, while the new kids on the block, Google and Apple, rise.
As for Microsoft, well, let’s just say that we expect Cortana to be about as successful as Bing in the long run:
|SEARCH ENGINE||MARKET SHARE AS OF APR. 2018*|
*Statistics according to gs.statcounter.com.