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Google Duplex, AI Powered Restaurant Reservations Rolling Out to More Users

Photo Courtesy of Google

Last year, Google unveiled Google Duplex, the company’s AI powered service that makes restaurant and service reservations on your behalf. The technology seemed very futuristic, although there were a lot of questions about how (and how well) it would work. At launch, Duplex functionality was only available to those who owned a 3rd generation Google Pixel smartphone, and even then it was limited to those who live in one of a few select test cities. Now, The Verge and other news outlets are reporting that Duplex is rolling out more widely, and should soon be available on Android phones running Android 5.0 or higher, and iPhones with the Google Assistant app installed. The service now works in 43 US States, and is only available in English. As with usual Google product rollouts, it’s happening gradually, so if you have a compatible phone, you may not see the service just yet.

The way that Duplex works is simple, at least from the user-facing side. Users can just activate Google Assistant on their device, and ask the assistant to “make a dinner reservation”. From there, the assistant will ask a few questions such as how many guests and what time window, and then will proceed to call the restaurant. An automated voice will speak to the restaurant employee, process their responses, and then send you a notification either to let you know whether or not the reservation was made. It can even cancel restaurant reservations as well, and there are plans to roll out the service to include other businesses such as hair salons. Currently, this is limited to phones, and does not include smart speakers with Google Assistant. 

As The Verge notes, in their testing, it was a bit of a hit and miss situation. The Duplex service only works with certain restaurants, and sometimes an actual Google employee does the calling when the automated service cannot. You also cannot hear the call or see a transcript, so you have to trust that Google’s automated service properly heard the restaurant on the other end and actually did make a reservation (although it does send you a confirmation). We’d also wager that most restaurants are not accustomed to receiving calls from automated services, and many would likely hangup, either out of confusion or because spam calls have become so prolific. Though on the flip side, this could provide an easy marketing opportunity for restaurants that jump in head first. Imagine how many Google users might choose the restaurant option that they trust will let them book with Duplex.

Still, this is a big step forward for restaurant reservations, and at the current pace of AI development, it’s not hard to imagine a future in which you can let computers do this work for you. These types of features really put the “assistant” in Google Assistant.

What do you think? Would you be comfortable letting an automated service do your booking for you? And restaurant owners, would you feel confident taking reservations from a machine? Connect with us on Twitter and let us know your thoughts.


Source: The Verge, The Verge