Google's voice-calling Duplex bot - which uses artificial intelligence (AI) to mimic a human voice to make appointments and book tables through phone calls - is reported to be attractive to call centres, meant to assist humans with customer queries. Google, however, has denied the report, saying that it is currently working on the consumer side of things, and that it isn't testing the technology with any enterprise clients. Of course, that doesn't mean Google won't be open to such a possibility in the future.
According to a report in The Information late on Thursday, an unnamed insurance company has shown interest in Duplex, which could "handle simple and repetitive customer calls" before taking help from a human if the conversation gets complicated.
Google, however, said in a statement that the company is not testing Duplex with any enterprise clients. "We're currently focused on consumer use cases for the 'Duplex' technology and we aren't testing 'Duplex' with any enterprise clients," a Google spokesperson told Engadget in a statement.
"Duplex is designed to operate in very specific use cases, and currently we're focused on testing with restaurant reservations, hair salon booking, and holiday hours with a limited set of trusted testers. It's important that we get the experience right and we're taking a slow and measured approach as we incorporate learnings and feedback from our tests," the company added. For now, the Google Duplex bot is being prepped for a summer rollout, and is currently being tested with select users.
Google last week also said it has no plans to give third-party app developers access to the technology. Nick Fox, Google vice president of product and design for Google Assistant, said it's too early and Google is still learning how its bot will react with humans in the real world.
At its annual developer conference in May, Google CEO Sundar Pichai introduced Duplex and demonstrated how the AI system could book an appointment at a salon and a table at a restaurant. In the demo, the Google Assistant sounded like a human.
It used Google DeepMind's new WaveNet audio-generation technique and other advances in natural language processing (NLP) to replicate human speech patterns. However, tech critics raised questions on the morality of the technology, saying it was developed without proper oversight or regulation. To satisfy critics, Google says the Duplex bot will identify itself when making a phone call.
Microsoft has showcased a similar technology it has been testing in China.
At an AI event in London in May, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella revealed that the company's Xiaoice social chatbot has 500 million "friends" and more than 16 channels for Chinese users to interact with it through WeChat and other popular messaging services. Xiaoice interacts in text conversations but now the company has started allowing the chatbot to call people on their phones.
Written with inputs from IANS