One of the most exciting and certainly headline-grabbing features of the Duplex AI feature that relies on Google Assistant is starting to come to Pixel phone owners. Sort of.
In a statement provided to VentureBeat, Google confirmed that it’s begun a “slow rollout” of the service, which offers an automated way to call a business and book reservations and appointments on your behalf. That’s the centerpiece of this new AI system, for now, and it definitely made waves when Google showed it off earlier this year complete with a very human-sounding AI voice doing the automatic calling on your behalf with all of the “ums” and pauses of natural human speech.
According to VB, a “small group” of Pixel phone owners in “select cities” is starting to get access to Google Duplex, though Google hasn’t confirmed which cities are part of this first group. Google appears to be taking this extremely slow partly because of the nature of what Duplex entails — AI interacting with humans in the real-world in a new and potentially game-changing way. From the VB piece: “For now, if you’re able to access the service you’ll be restricted to restaurant bookings (so no haircut appointments just yet), and some restaurants will be unavailable for reasons that occasionally aren’t entirely clear.
“Pixel phones are only supported right now, meaning no smart displays or other handsets, and Google Assistant will only make English-speaking calls in the cities that Google has specifically selected for the trial. It’s unclear how long it’ll take for the service to overcome each of these limitations, but since Google is recording all its current Duplex calls it’s likely to be gathering a lot of important usage data now that the rollout has begun.”
That piece continues by noting that the way to have Google Assistant make the reservation call on your behalf is to just ask it to “make a reservation” or by searching for a restaurant and asking for a reservation from there. You give Google the requisite details like the size of your party and the date and time you want. Google makes the reservation, and then it gets added to your “My Reservations” list.
There’s no word yet on when this will become more widely available to the general public. But again, it’s definitely a good thing Google is taking this slow as opposed to dropping it half-baked into the wild. Indeed, Google has been paying attention to feedback even from Duplex’s initial limited testing and early reveals, such as when the company raised eyebrows with its Duplex demo earlier this year that saw the Google Assistant make reservations and sound very much human but without identifying itself as non-human. Google quickly changed that after a sort of public outcry, so that the system now notes it’s an automated service powered by Google that’s making the reservation.