Google's Controversial Duplex AI Caller Coming To Pixel Phones

Google Duplex

In short: Duplex, the Google Assistant-based service designed to initiate and lead phone calls with real humans for the purposes of making appointments, will be rolling out to all Pixel smartphones in November, Google confirmed earlier today. As originally announced, the service will only be live in parts of the United States for the time being, with consumers in San Francisco, New York, Phoenix, and Atlanta being scheduled to receive it by the end of the year. The rollout will be gradual in nature as Google intends to approach the deployment of the platform one city at a time. It’s still unclear whether all Pixel handsets will receive the feature or just the newly announced Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL will, though the former scenario seems more likely.

Background: First announced at Google I/O 2018 in May, Duplex was the subject of both criticism and ridicule following its debut demonstration that saw it impersonate a human caller. In response to the public backlash over ethics that ensued, Google reworked the solution so as to have it immediately identify itself as a robot caller, claiming that was its plan all along. Alphabet’s subsidiary has yet to clarify whether it intends to take Duplex global in the near future but that may not be the case given the polarizing nature of the functionality.

Impact: Duplex is the epitome of Google’s AI-first policy that seeks to combine the latest and greatest machine learning advancements with consumer electronics, though questions remain whether the company took things too far this time around and if the world is even ready for something like Duplex. The initial version of the service will be extremely limited in nature and only be capable of calling restaurants that don’t take online reservations, the firm revealed at a behind-the-scenes preview event held last week, without clarifying when its list of supported features may expand.