Many Google Duplex calls are made by humans, not AI

Shubham Sharma

Many Google Duplex calls are made by humans, not AI

25 May 2019: Many Google Duplex calls are made by humans, not AI

Last year at I/O, Google drew widespread attention with Duplex, the futuristic AI that promised to make restaurant/haircut reservations on behalf of a Google Assistant user.

The feature made a strong impression with its eerily realistic human-like voice but as it turns out, a number of calls made by Duplex are actually handled by real people.

Here's why.

Calls: Duplex calls handled by humans

After conducting a detailed investigation and several tests, the New York Times has reported that a number of Duplex calls are handled by humans sitting in call centers.

These 'Duplex operators' intervened in three out of four test calls, which a regular user would have thought are being made by the AI-powered assistant.

However, the one call handled by Duplex was conducted with perfection.

Fact: However, in one call, Duplex wasn't involved at all

In another test call, a man with an Irish accent placed a dinner reservation request at a Thai restaurant, the NYT report said. The booking was made normally, but not a single word was spoken by the Assistant.

Need: Why humans are kept in the loop

Though Duplex has expanded to most smartphones in the US, its capabilities remain limited.

Basically, there might be situations where the AI hits a roadblock, like if there is not enough information about the restaurant or it's not clear if the place is real and accepting reservations.

In all these cases, Google says, the call could be conducted or taken over by a human.

Google's confirmation: 25% calls handled by humans

Google acknowledged the involvement of human callers but emphasized that they make only 25% of all Duplex calls and intervene in 15% of them.

The company added it considers a variety of factors to determine if the call should be made by a man or machine, and the data collected from the latter also helps with the training of the AI.

Fact: Additionally, humans help with gradual transition

Google also claimed that keeping humans in the loop also helps with transitioning to AI gradually. Basically, the calls made by humans will help the AI become more capable to deal with real restaurant staff.

Issue: This shows Duplex still has a lot to learn

At this and last year's I/O, Google sold Duplex as the tech that could handle every single restaurant reservation call on your behalf.

However, the latest revelation from NYT and the confirmation by search giant itself shows that Duplex still has a lot to learn going forward.

This would be critical for scaling up to other businesses and countries.