The biggest “wow moment” of Google I/O earlier this year was the reveal of Google Duplex. The feature instantly impressed the crowd and brought up tons of intriguing questions. Now, it’s finally starting to roll out, at least to Pixel owners in select cities.
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Google confirmed this week to VentureBeat that Duplex is starting to roll out to users in “select cities” around the United States. The company hasn’t detailed exactly which cities will have the feature available, but it’s a safe bet that the previously revealed “pilot metro” locations such as New York City, San Franciso, Atlanta, and Phoenix will be included. Even with the geographical restriction, Google Duplex is still only rolling out to a “small group” of Pixel owners who are in those locations.
Duplex in this form still isn’t what we saw back at I/O. It’s a limited version which can solely perform restaurant reservations, not haircuts and other sorts of appointments like the company showed off initially. However, this version isn’t limited to businesses which have partnered with Google as it was in previous testing. A Google spokesperson explains:
We’re currently ramping up the ability to book restaurant reservations through the Google Assistant over the phone using Duplex technology. To help deliver a good experience to Pixel users and to businesses, we’re starting with a slow rollout … and will expand to more Pixel users as we continue to ramp up.
Since a VentureBeat reporter was within the qualifications to test out Google Duplex, we’ve also got some examples of how the feature works for end users. In the first video seen below, we can see the process it takes to set up a call with Duplex. Through Google Assistant, the user is able to select a location that they’d like to book a reservation at. From there, details such as the time, number of people, and other specifics are requested by the Assistant.
The entire process takes a little over a minute. Personally, that seems a bit long considering calling yourself would take roughly the same amount of time. However, in a later example by the same user, we can see the reservation request being set up late at night after the location has closed, and Google stating that it will make the call the following day. That seems genuinely useful.
In another brief video, VentureBeat was able to work with a nearby restaurant which allowed them to record Duplex’s call with the restaurant. The voice, just like at I/O, is creepily human-sounding, but we do hear a brief disclaimer at the start of the call. Duplex states that it is “calling from Google” and that the call “may be recorded.” It’s also pretty impressive that Google is able to accurately handle everything given the strong accent.
Further, this hands-on time also shows off Duplex’s reservation management UI. It appears that, within Assistant, users will be able to see their reservations made with Google Duplex. On top of that, they can cancel an attempt to make a reservation from within this UI. Notably, though, Duplex won’t be able to re-attempt a call to the same location multiple times in the same day.
We’re still a ways out from when Google Duplex ever hits consumers on a wide scale, but so far the tech still looks incredibly powerful and useful. We’ll have to see how things continue to develop as time goes forward.
More on Google Duplex:
- Google demos Assistant making automated, natural calls on your behalf
- Google Duplex being tested in call centers as ethical concerns reportedly slow development
- Comment: Google Duplex isn’t the only thing announced at I/O that has societal implications