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Google Duplex Debuts for Select Pixel Users in the US, Makes Restaurant Reservations


The ambitious Google Duplex project from the tech giant is finally starting to see some light of day. The AI-based chat agent is now reportedly rolling out to a limited number of Pixel owners in select cities in the US. Expectedly, Duplex arrives with limited functionality initially and can only make calls in the English language for now. It can make restaurant reservations with a seemingly natural voice, but gives the required disclaimers beforehand. As mentioned before by Google, businesses can individually opt out of Duplex calls for reservations.

Folks at VentureBeat got access to Google Duplex that is rolling out to “set of trusted tester users”, all of whom are Pixel smartphone owners. It is available in select cities, that probably include the ones announced by Google recently – Atlanta, New York, Phoenix, and the San Francisco Bay Area.

This development was confirmed by a Google spokesperson to VentureBeat – “We’re currently ramping up the ability to book restaurant reservations through the Google Assistant over the phone using Duplex technology. To help deliver a good experience to Pixel users and to businesses, we’re starting with a slow rollout … and will expand to more Pixel users as we continue to ramp up.”

To begin the process, trigger Google Assistant by saying “Hey Google, make a restaurant reservation” or “Hey Google, reserve a table”. You can also mention the location you’re looking to make the reservation in.

Once done, choose from the list of cuisines and pick the restaurant of your choice. Tap the “Request a table there” option to initiate the Duplex process. Notably, not all restaurants are part of the process; Google has said that businesses can opt out from the service by toggling an option in their Google My Business account.

With restaurants that are eligible, Assistant starts off by asking you about the number of pax, which is limited to 10 currently. Above that limit, Assistant will mention that it cannot make reservations for larger parties just yet. After the size of the table is confirmed, Assistant will ask you for the booking date which comes with a suggestion of up to the next seven days. The service allows you, however, to make requests for even several months later. Once the date is confirmed, Google will ask you for the time of reservation along with an hour-long time window (for instance, between 1-2pm) in case reservations are unavailable for the particular time. Next, Duplex requests for a booking phone number which, by default, is set as your own number. You can choose from other contacts in your account as well.

Once all that is done, Google Duplex gets to work. It has a rather natural voice but offers a disclaimer at the beginning – “Hi, I’m calling to make a reservation for a client. I’m calling from Google, so the call may be recorded.” It then proceeds to talk to the restaurant using the information provided, however its accuracy with thicker accents or different-from-normal words is yet to be tested. VentureBeat even managed to get a real-life example of the experience at the restaurant which appears fluid and hassle-free. The report claims that the natural essence of Google Duplex comes from its use of the WaveNet audio processing neural network and speech disfluencies like the “ums and the “ahs”.

Google has stated that if business responders reply on the line with “I don’t want to be recorded” or a similar phrase, the call is handed off to a human operator on an unrecorded line.

Updated: November 22, 2018 — 9:18 am

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