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Listen in as Google’s AI assistant has phone conversations with real people


Google CEO Sundar Pichai speaking at Google I/O
Google CEO Sundar Pichai speaking at Google I/O
Justin Sullivan / Getty
Shirin Ghaffary is a senior Vox correspondent covering the social media industry. Previously, Ghaffary worked at BuzzFeed News, the San Francisco Chronicle, and TechCrunch.

Google just unveiled that its AI assistant can now make realistic calls to businesses to do things like book a haircut or make a restaurant reservation — and the demos are unreal.

The technology is called Google Duplex, and while it can only handle a specific set of use cases — outlined in more detail in a company blog post — it’s one of the most sophisticated examples of AI-powered conversations with humans.

The AI speech bots use natural speech patterns like adding “ums” and “ahs” to make the conversation sound more natural, and can respond to unexpected turns in the conversation, like when the restaurant is too crowded to accommodate the party size.

“Even in the U.S., 60 percent of businesses don’t have an online booking system set up. We think AI can help with this problem,” said CEO Sundar Pichai, who demoed a couple of examples of real recorded conversations onstage at Google I/O. Watch here:

You won’t be able to automatically order a pizza with the technology just yet, but in the coming weeks Google will be rolling out a feature to use the technology to call businesses around holiday times to get automatic updates on changes to their store hours, and automatically update those times that appear in Google search.

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