Did Google Pre-Plan the Google Duplex Calls During the AI Demo?

An exterior view of Google's headquarters, also known as Googleplex, in Mountain View, California, US as taken on Apr. 13, 2014. |

Google recently wowed, and in some cases, horrified, audiences after a flawless demonstration of its new Artificial Intelligence assistant (AI) called the Google Duplex.

For the demonstration, the AI assistant booked a haircut and a restaurant appointment. Google Duplex sounded eerily human-like, even throwing in "umms and ahhs" and easily navigating the conversation even though it didn't go as expected.

While some were left impressed, others were stuck wondering if it was even real in the first place. The folks over at Axios were the first to toy with the idea that it may have been staged.

The publication provided several reasons to make their case. First is the fact that the people called during the demonstration did not even identify themselves or the business by name, which is usually the case when calling a business.

The salon contacted opened the call with "Hello, how can I help you?" while the restaurant started the conversation with "Hi, may I help you?"

Axios thought this was odd especially since they themselves called over two dozen hair salons and restaurants, all of which identified their business names when they picked up.

There seemed to be no ambient background noise such as the sound of chatting customers in both calls. Some of the businesses the abovementioned publication called had that.

Lastly, the person on the other end of the line only asked for the first name of the customer to the bot and not even a phone number in finalizing the booking. This was the case for both the salon and the restaurant that Google Duplex called.

Axios has reached out to Google to at least ask for the names of the businesses they called during the demo, giving their guarantee not to identify them publicly but solely to confirm that the establishments actually exist and that the calls were not planned beforehand.

They also asked whether or not the calls were edited for the demo. Unfortunately, a long-time Google spokeswoman declined to provide the information and promised to get back to them but apparently didn't.

While the idea that the Google Duplex demo is not what it seemed is becoming less and less ridiculous that, this does not necessarily explain what is really currently going on in the project.

The AI assistant shown in the demo is not in its final version yet. Whether or not the tech giant is close to perfecting it or pre-planned the whole thing to look great remains to be seen.

Just recently, Google responded to allegations of deception when the AI assistant did not identify itself as a bot to the businesses they called during the demo.

"We understand and value the discussion around Google Duplex – as we've said from the beginning, transparency in the technology is important," the company said in a statement.

"We are designing this feature with disclosure built in, and we'll make sure the system is appropriately identified. What we showed at I/O was an early technology demo, and we look forward to incorporating feedback as we develop this into a product," the company added.


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