Google’s creepy Duplex callbot arrives on iPhone

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Google Duplex uses an AI to make very realistic phone calls on your behalf.
Google Duplex uses an AI to make very realistic phone calls on your behalf.
Photo: Google

People find Google Duplex both amazing and slightly creepy. And this service, which can make restaurant and hotel reservations via synthesized voice calls, is now available for iPhone or iPad.

Duplex can be unnerving because it works so hard at mimicking human voice habits.

The Turing test in real life

Google gave businesses a heads up about its automated voice-calling technology Duplex. “Customers can ask the Google Assistant to make phone calls on their behalf, for tasks like booking an appointment or checking your business hours. The Assistant will confirm any necessary details with the customer and call your business to fulfill the customer’s request.”

When it was initially unveiled last year, Duplex didn’t tell the people receiving its calls that they were talking to an AI. Instead, the system did its best to mimic a human, including the occasional pause and “umm.” After backlash, Google now informs businesses that they are talking to a computer.

A video demonstrates the process:

Previously, Duplex was available only on Google Pixel phones and in just a handful of US states. That’s now expanded to any iPhone or recent Android, as well as 43 states.

For iPhone, it requires the Google Assistant app, which is free to use. This being Google, data about any transactions will almost certainly be sold to advertisers.