Google Assistant is going to make phone calls for you now. At Google I/O, the company’s annual developer conference, on Tuesday, CEO Sundar Pichai revealed a new development to Assistant that allows users to book appointments via artificial intelligence.
It’s called Duplex, and the company claims it can process complex speech patterns in order to complete real-world tasks like ordering food, setting meetings, and coordinating other services that require in-person conversations. While the feature is not yet available to the public, it’s actively being tested at Google and was demoed at I/O. The company says it will begin to roll out the capability sometime this summer.*
During the demo, Pichai showed two different calls that Google Assistant made — one to a hair salon and the other to a restaurant — where Assistant simulated a human voice (including vocal tics) and successfully convinced a real human into securing reservations.
“The Assistant can actually understand the nuances of conversation,” said Pichai. “We’ve been working on this technology for many years.”
While the examples given during the presentation focused on setting up appointments and bookings, the Google AI Blog says that Duplex can also find out information not otherwise available online, like holiday hours.
The user asks Google Assistant what they need. Google Assistant will then process the user’s input and feed a request to Duplex, which will then contact the business. Duplex will then relay that information back to Assistant and back to the user.
Though more and more businesses are adding online portals for their services, many small businesses are still booked analog. Pichai says that this will help connect more of those businesses to customers in a more convenient way.
Of course, a human-sounding AI has its problems, and could just add to the uncanny valley of truth on the internet. But you’ll be able to ask Google Assistant to do everything for you without ever having to talk to another human ever again (except for John Legend; you can talk to John Legend).
Note: This post has been updated to clarify when Duplex will be available to the public.