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Google’s Duplex AI could kill the call center

07 July 2018

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. In the demo, the Google Assistant sounded like a human.

We've already seen that Google Duplex does a fairly convincing job of being like a PA, and as such, there's no reason why for the simple stuff at least, it can be the agent too. Google, however, has denied the report, saying that it is now working on the consumer side of things, and that it isn't testing the technology with any enterprise clients. As we shared last week, Duplex is created to operate in very specific use cases, and now we're focused on testing with restaurant reservations, hair salon booking, and holiday hours with a limited set of trusted testers. What wasn't touched on was the possibility that Duplex may have a use on the other side of the line, taking over for call centre employees and telemarketers.

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. Backlash eventually made Google promise that Duplex will tell people they are speaking with AI, but the company still has a way to go to ease everyone's worries.

Google is reportedly shopping its Duplex AI system around as a tool for call centers, according to The Information, including a large insurance company.

Microsoft has showcased a similar technology it has been testing in China.

The primary use case mentioned in today's report is call centers, specifically the booming cloud-based market where Duplex's uncanny naturalness might serve as an advantage.

Amazon offers a similar service, opening Alexa's underlying technology to enterprise customers previous year. In this example, the company's lead in natural language processing allows it to understand a wider range of user responses for a longer period before handing off to a human.

Google, to be sure, has already retooled the way Duplex interacts on calls just a bit since showing it off at I/O. Earlier this year, Google Cloud Speech-to-Text received a major overhaul focused on optimizing phone call transcription uses. Don't forget: Google Assistant was used to shoot a gun recently.

However the company has admitted that the ethical concerns that overshadowed the original presentation have slowed work on the project, this person said. The primary critique is that even in a call center setting customers would be unaware they are talking to a machine and feel subsequently deceived.

Google’s Duplex AI could kill the call center