During its product blitz at last week’s Google’s annual developer conference, the company crammed in a mind-boggling number of demos and announcements to show off advancements in the area of artificial intelligence. From a lifelike Google Assistant using artificial intelligence called Duplex to advanced augmented reality technologies, Google seems to be getting that much closer to hitting a milestone in the evolution of computing.
There were a number of advancements in Google maps, a new version of Android for compatible mobile devices, more support for augmented reality, but what really stole the show and had everyone talking was their Google Assistant technology called ‘Duplex’; its new AI technology to handle tasks over the phone. Considered a voice assistant, much like Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana, Duplex is really something else entirely touting it as the next step in human-computer interaction. It’s so good it can hold natural conversations and carry out real world tasks over your phone such as meeting and appointment booking. This technology mimics human conversation to a degree I’ve never seen before making the conversational experience as natural as possible, allowing people to speak normally, like they would to another person, without having to adapt to a machine. It’s so good you won’t even know your talking to a machine.
They plan to have a limited launch this summer where a test group of people will be able to book restaurant reservations and hair appointments and to check holiday hours, stuff you’d normally do over the phone. All of that back and forth happens on the back end — between Google Assistant and, say, the restaurant. You won’t even hear the voice chat taking place. It’ll come from an unspecified phone number, not your own.
Google is coy about the size of the rollout, but says it’ll be limited — all the company will say is it won’t be available to everyone using Assistant today. Nick Fox, vice president of product and design for Google Assistant and Search, says they want to “proceed with caution” in a time when people are very concerned with privacy and security.
With the Google Assistant’s voice feature, we’ve already seen how far Google is willing to go to stockpile our data for advertising and developmental purposes. Unless you change your settings, your Android device will record every voice request you make of Google, using it to serve up targeted ads and to improve the accuracy of the voice recognition feature.
As it currently stands, the team developing Duplex has already been using user data to teach their highly advanced neural network. To obtain its high precision, Google engineers trained Duplex’s AI on a anonymized phone conversation data. They haven’t said whether the system will continue to store and use your data, but if past Google products are any indication, it probably will.
Google makes money by collecting user data, so protecting our privacy is not a priority for them. Every Google product is a bet that we will be willing to relinquish a degree of privacy in return for the benefits of their cool new products and features. What will we have to relinquish in order to use Duplex? Will it be worth it?
It is too soon to tell how this new form of artificial intelligence will address these issues or whether it will address them at all. Until then, you might want to be aware that this technology is on its way into our lives whether you like it or not and to be mindful of it the next time someone calls you.