"Is That A Robot??" Google AI Demonstration Impresses And Horrifies The Internet In Equal Measure

Google Developers / Youtube / Twitter / IFLScience

James Felton 09 May 2018, 16:08

There are a lot of really cool announcements coming out of the Google AI conference, including an impressive autocomplete system on Gmail that'll save you the effort of ever having to personalize messages to your closest friends again.

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Another announcement has rendered John Legend completely unnecessary, according to Chrissy Teigen, John Legend's wife.

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But there's one demonstration that either has everybody extremely excited and screaming "oh god, the robot uprising is happening right now".

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Google showed off an update of their Google Assistant, and it's pretty incredible to watch.

In the demo, the new system was able to call a restaurant and a hairdresser and book a table and an appointment, without the human on the other end of the line ever knowing they were speaking to an algorithm.

First, Google Assistant dialed up a hairdresser and booked an appointment "on behalf of a client". When the human hairdresser said that they didn't have a free appointment for 12pm, that's when things got interesting.

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In an incredibly smooth conversation, the Assistant calls up the hairdresser and talks just like a human would. Other than a brief moment later on in the conversation, you'd never know anything out of the ordinary is happening.

The Google Assistant even adds in umms and ahs in order to make itself appear more human. When told there are no appointments for the time "the client" had requested, the AI seamlessly offers up alternatives and even adds in several thinking noises in order to make it appear more natural.

The whole conversation is truly, astonishingly... ordinary. 

The demo goes on to call a restaurant. Despite the restaurant staff mishearing the AI, Google's Duplex technology manages to keep the conversation on track, showing off some incredible leaps in language understanding in the process.

This video shows a seperate call to a restaurant, which is virtually indistinguishable from a conversation between two humans.

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"The amazing thing is that Assistant can actually understand the nuances of conversation," Google CEO Sundar Pichai explained at the conference.

"We've been working on this technology for many years. It's called Google Duplex. It brings together natural language understanding, deep learning, text to speech."

As if this isn't all impressive enough, once it's booked the appointment:

"The Assistant can then give you confirmation that your appointment has been booked for you."

Google will conduct tests of the Duplex Assistant in the summer, but they have big plans for it to automate annoying tasks.

"Instead of making a phone call, the user simply interacts with the Google Assistant," they wrote in a blog post. "The call happens completely in the background without any user involvement."

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