We’ve been seeing the natural-language abilities of the Google Assistant continuously evolve over the years, slowly getting better at listening to us and responding. A couple months back, though, we got our first taste of what could be a sea change for the Assistant’s ability to effortlessly carry on conversations, as Google demoed its new Duplex AI tech. As we wait for Duplex testing to start rolling out publicly, a new report suggests that smartphone users aren’t the only ones anxiously awaiting its debut, and that companies running big call centers are also taking a deep look at what Duplex could do for them.
So far, the sort of demos Google has given for its system’s operation have Duplex standing in for the customer, while it dials out to connect with live humans representing businesses.
But according to The Information, companies also want to see that arrangement flipped on its head, as they consider handing partial control of their call centers over to Duplex. Specifically, the report mentions an insurance company thinking about using Duplex to handle routine calls, and passing things off to a live operator in more complex situations.
Call centers have been interested in automated processing for years, from simple voice-driven menus to more advanced routing systems. But it’s probably fair to say that the brief taste we’ve gotten from Duplex so far represents an advancement significantly beyond what’s currently in use. A lot of that’s due to how natural Duplex sounds when talking to humans, and a system successful at that, which encourages people to continue engaging with it, can free up operator time to handle tricky or sensitive tasks.
But is this among the use cases Google sees for Duplex? Following the initial publication of this report, Google issued a statement asserting that its Duplex efforts are entirely focused on consumer uses, and that the company isn’t engaged in testing any enterprise deployment. And while Google reiterates that it intends to take its time with its consumer tests and work on fine-tuning the system with the feedback it receives, it also does not say that it’s ruling out the possibility of future business-focused Duplex tests — only that it’s not working on anything of the sort right now.