Was Google's Duplex Demo Real?

May 21, 2018

By Alisha Haridasani

New evidence suggests that Google's all-to-real sounding voice assistant may not be as life-like as it first seemed, raising questions about the status of the company's A.I. capabilities.

A demo last month of the A.I.-powered Duplex voice assistant showed it interacting with humans to make a restaurant reservation and a haircut appointment. But some people are saying it was faked.

Axios’s Dan Primack pointed out that the people picking up the calls in the two demos don't identify themselves, as is the norm when small businesses receive phone calls. There was also no ambient noise in the phone calls, and neither the hair salon or the restaurant asked for the caller’s phone number for the booking.

“The whole conceit of Google Duplex is that a robot would have a conversation with a human on the other end, potentially without a human having to jump in,” said Dana Wollman, executive editor at Engadget. “So people do want to feel that this interaction was real and authentic.”

The more likely scenario is that Google may have edited the recording, protecting the businesses or the privacy of the people who answered the call, said Wollman.

“I think it is still possible that it was based on a real exchange,” she said. “If I was in Google’s PR department I would probably want to be able to show a real working demo.”

Google hasn't directly responded on the record to journalists asking about the authenticity of the recordings.

For the full interview, click here.

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