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Google's 'Duplex' System Will Identify Itself When Talking To People, Says Google (businessinsider.com) 77

Google's "Duplex" AI system was the most talked about product at Google I/O because it called into question the ethics of an AI that cannot easily be distinguished from a real person's voice. The service lets its voice-based digital assistant make phone calls and write emails for you, causing many to ask if the system should come with some sort of warning to let the other person on the line know they are talking to a computer. According to Business Insider, "a Google spokesperson confirmed [...] that the creators of Duplex will 'make sure the system is appropriately identified' and that they are 'designing this feature with disclosure built-in.'" From the report: Here's the full statement from Google: "We understand and value the discussion around Google Duplex -- as we've said from the beginning, transparency in the technology is important. We are designing this feature with disclosure built-in, and we'll make sure the system is appropriately identified. What we showed at I/O was an early technology demo, and we look forward to incorporating feedback as we develop this into a product."

Google CEO Sundar Pichai preemptively addressed ethics concerns in a blog post that corresponded with the announcement earlier this week, saying: "It's clear that technology can be a positive force and improve the quality of life for billions of people around the world. But it's equally clear that we can't just be wide-eyed about what we create. There are very real and important questions being raised about the impact of technology and the role it will play in our lives. We know the path ahead needs to be navigated carefully and deliberately -- and we feel a deep sense of responsibility to get this right." In addition, several Google insiders have told Business Insider that the software is still in the works, and the final version may not be as realistic (or as impressive) as the demonstration.

Google's 'Duplex' System Will Identify Itself When Talking To People, Says Google

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  • by Rosco P. Coltrane ( 209368 ) on Saturday May 12, 2018 @03:07AM (#56599854)

    I was looking forward to having a bit of fun trying to identify robocaller vs a real human being.

    As in, in the middle of the conversation, drop something completely unexpected like "What is the answer to life, the universe and everything plus one?"

    A human would give the correct answer - or at least go "Uuh? What's that got to do with anything?" A robocaller would politely say "I'm sorry Sir, I'm not sure I understand your question...", indicating to me that it's time to hang up because I don't want to interact with Google's dystopia.

    • A human would give the correct answer

      You hang around with nerds too much if you expect the average human to know the answer to life, the universe and everything.

      • You hang around with nerds too much if you expect the average human to know the answer to life, the universe and everything.

        I just asked Alexa, and she/it gave the answer "42".

        • Google Home is lame. I just asked and it said, "Better minds than mine are working on that."
    • by NoZart ( 961808 )

      You would have to do better than that, anyway ;-)

      https://www.google.at/search?q... [google.at]

      • by NoZart ( 961808 )

        works with the "plus one" i forgot, too :-D

        • Indeed. I checked a few others.

          Google and Bing added one correctly.,

          Yahoo, Lycos, DuckDuckGo and Ask couldn't add the one.

          And I didn't realize AltaVista just redirects to Yahoo now.

          Baidu came up with a bunch of Chinese characters that are all Greek to me, but I can see 42 appear a few places.

          Yandex can't add one either.

    • A human would give the correct answer

      Siri gives the correct answer too: I don't understand your question.
      The only difference is Duplex would sound human: "errrrr I don't understand your question"

    • A robocaller would politely say "I'm sorry Sir, I'm not sure I understand your question...",

      Google's robot sounds and responds more like a human than any of the Indian/Filipino customer service people I've spoken to in the last 10 years. Seriously their training makes them act exactly like a 1970's version of a robot.

      • by shmlco ( 594907 )

        As mentioned on another site, we listened to a canned, recorded "demo" where everything went right.

        They didn't do a live demonstration, and people weren't allowed to try it out after the fact. To me, that pretty much means they're just trying to show off with technology that's not ready for prime time.

    • Imagine how much people would upsell for these?

      "yes you can have your binding reservation.. thres gouch fee of oucchh threefifty for the reservation, you can have the best table of the place, okay?"

      the thing is, that you're putting an automated machine to make agreements/arrangements on your behalf. either way it's going to go sour at some point. it's hard to find even humans capable of the task - and if you can't make agreements on such a call, it's useless since that was the whole point of the call.

    • If you asked that question like "what the meaning of life plus 1" to Google Assistant or Alexa now in it's current form, they already have a witty reply teed up for it.

      Seriously... us geeks have been screwing with these AI voice services for awhile now, and they now have preprogrammed responses to most of the common gotcha questions already.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I am going to start every phone conversation with: "Hi this is a human"

    • A human would give the correct answer - or at least go "Uuh? What's that got to do with anything?" A robocaller would politely say "I'm sorry Sir, I'm not sure I understand your question..."

      Actually, the latter is exactly what I'd expect a human customer service agent who hasn't read Douglas Adams to say.

    • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

      Would that be anything like trying to identify the real country of origin from a tech support centre member with their trained fake American accent. Want to know something interesting, they serve them up to Australians, which boggled my mind, why present a fake American accented person to an Australian, how would that win sales. Apparently in the training programs a fake American accent is much easier to learn than a fake Australian accent. For ease of communications I just ask them to go with their real ac

      • Would it be better for them to try to talk like an American trying to sound like an Australian?

        I've never noticed them trying to fake an American accent. Some are easy to understand and some are completely incomprehensible, nor can they understand what I'm saying.

  • If you don't like to be robocalled, don't robocall others.

    • If you don't like to be robocalled, don't robocall others.

      . . . or robocall those making the robocalls.

      The Telcos would love such an Cold to Hot Robocall war escalation, since it would generate more revenue.

      Wasn't that in the opening credits to Monty Python and the Holy Grail?

      "Those making the robocalls . . . have just been robocalled."

  • can't wait to have my inbox swamped with recommendations from my peers.....

  • by DMJC ( 682799 )
    Maybe stop worrying about the ethics and just get on with getting rid of all the call centre operators and personal assistant roles. The sooner we throw people out of work from meaningless jobs, the sooner we can ditch insanity like trickle down economics and get back to fixing the way our civilisation works.
  • It's awesome that in the future 90% of phone calls will be be
    Robot voice: This call is from Google Assistant.
    Human voice: Yeah, um, Hi $valued_cutomer, I'd like to, um, tell you about our new next-um-generation product. When would be a good time to, um, schedule a demo?
    Me: Oh bugger off
    Human voice: uh-huh
    Human voice: So Tuesday next week?

  • Ridiculous ballyhoo (Score:5, Informative)

    by RhettLivingston ( 544140 ) on Saturday May 12, 2018 @04:59AM (#56599994) Journal

    Somehow, I don't think those making complaints about this work phones in retail businesses. The demo was vastly more articulate and had better manners than most human callers to businesses. For those users with heavy accents or ESL users, this would be a nice accessibility feature.

    I can see this being useful anywhere an executive used to use a secretary in the old days. For example, the meeting organization functions in calendar programs are rarely used. This could move them to a useful level where the assistant calls the parties involved and negotiates what might work. It could even make the calls simultaneously though a worst schedule first approach might work better.

    In some use cases such as verifying store hours, it is going to reduce the numbers of calls the store has to handle. My wife was working in a store on Easter and said that the already overworked staff was answering the phone almost continuously all day to say the store was open. On New Year's Day this year, I called a store to ask that same question. They picked up the phone, said "we're open" without waiting for me to talk, and hung up.

    As to it violating "recording" laws, we obviously need to rewrite them. It is ridiculous to require that a person be paid to make these calls. Would a transcription device for a deaf person be considered a "recording device" under these same laws? What happens when we start getting cyber implants to help us remember things?

    I'd rather the law move towards treating assistants as personal extensions and giving them all the rights and protections of the person they are extending at the moment.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      So you are OK with spam emails, you just want them to be polite and articulate? Phone calls are much more intrusive, because phone calls are synchronous communication. Duplex creates the same moral hazard that gave rise to email spam: If it doesn't cost your time, just someone else's time, then there is no reason not to make lots of calls.

      • The difference between a single call made on behalf of a person trying to accomplish a task and a spam email sent out to millions in hopes of having one in a few thousand bite is so vast that the comparison is laughable.

        If we want to be upset about providing this to the less privileged, then we should create a law that says that nobody can allow any other entity, human or otherwise, to make a call on their behalf, not one that discriminates against those that can't afford true human assistants by just banni

    • I can see this being useful anywhere an executive used to use a secretary in the old days.

      I'm not sure sure how many 'executives' you've met, but a lot of the ones I've dealt with use their PA to deal with technology for them because shit like that is a distraction. They do this because a good PA has a zero error rate so allows them to focus on on their job/life/pleasure. As good as the robots are, it'll be a while before they are that perfect.

      • Few can afford PAs today. In 1980, the division of the corporation I first worked at had over 200 secretaries helping about 600 engineers and managers. By 1986 when I started, that had been reduced to 4. So, today, their effectiveness in serving the people they served then is about 2%, not 100%. Google Assistant has a potential to be an infinitely better PA in a few years than the PA most of those who had PAs in the old days no longer has today.
  • Hi (Score:5, Funny)

    by JustOK ( 667959 ) on Saturday May 12, 2018 @05:41AM (#56600050) Journal
    Hi, yes, my name is Bobby DropTables and... hello? hello?
  • by Kwelstr ( 114389 ) on Saturday May 12, 2018 @07:14AM (#56600158)
    My concern with these type of human imitation is not on the personal assistant side but on the robocall sales side. Telemarketers already have some rudimentary human type robocalls trying to fool you, if and when they get their hands on these bots answering any unknown call will turn to hell.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      if and when they get their hands on these bots answering any unknown call will turn to hell.

      Have your Duplex answer unknown calls. It's not like a contract between the robocaller and your Duplex will be valid.

      It will be something like Lenny talks to a spectacularly bad robocaller [youtube.com]

    • This is why we need to ban mass call campaigns, not the technologies being abused to implement them. But, as long as they are perceived to be of value in political campaigns, we can't seem to get there. There is no technical difficulty in detecting mass call campaigns at the carrier level. The difficulty is in getting politicians to put our desires ahead of theirs.
  • The automatic call could generate a particular tone, clearly recognizable. Like this: http://cdn2.goughlui.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/V17-14400bps-nonECM.wav [slashdot.org]. Bonus point if the called system is a computer it could switch to a digital mode and eventually ask for an encoded image representing the request. If a person answers the call it could also manually activate the image printer. Win!
  • by iamacat ( 583406 ) on Saturday May 12, 2018 @11:08AM (#56600628)

    You are suffiently ignorant to run a restaurant without online order and reservation system in 2018. But Google is supplying these for you for free rather than customers just going elsewhere with UberEats or OpenTable. Rather than grumbling about having to talk to a robot to get paid, get a hint and give customers a way to do business with you without having to spend 20 minutes on hold and then listen to your thick accent.

    • by mjwx ( 966435 )

      You are suffiently ignorant to run a restaurant without online order and reservation system in 2018. But Google is supplying these for you for free rather than customers just going elsewhere with UberEats or OpenTable. Rather than grumbling about having to talk to a robot to get paid, get a hint and give customers a way to do business with you without having to spend 20 minutes on hold and then listen to your thick accent.

      You on the other hand, seem sufficiently ignorant to have never run any kind of business, let alone a restaurant.

      If you've got a good restaurant, you don't need UberEats or OpenTable because customers come to you. Also here in the UK delivery services like Deliveroo existed long before UberEats and given how bad UberEats is, will easily outlive it. Deliveroo isn't for restaurants, it's for fast food (McDonalds is not a restaurant according to British standards). Beyond that you don't really need to reser

  • As evidenced by Google's refusal to do business with payday loan and bail bondsmen.

    Or evidenced by Google's conveniently leaving out the ability for Google home to answer "Who is Jesus Christ?"

    Which is all personally fine by me because if Google refuses to do business with certain segments of the population there certainly will be others who will.....

  • For further training and without permission of the person called? To some extent the software has to know what the content of the call was also, which could also be stored, and sold and accessed by businesses and law enforcement.

"Yeah, but you're taking the universe out of context."

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