Published: Sat, July 07, 2018
Technology | By Lionel Gonzales

Google says no, Duplex AI won't take over human call centers

Google says no, Duplex AI won't take over human call centers

According to The Information (paywalled) plans are afoot to use Google Duplex, so far demonstrated as the customer, as the agent to completely robotise the call centre.

After the publication of the report, Google in a statement to 9to5Google said that the only focus of their Duplex technology is on consumer applications.

Now a company is reportedly looking to use Duplex the other way around: on the behalf of the businesses to talk to people.

We've already seen that Google Duplex does a fairly convincing job of being like a PA, and as such, there's no reason why for the simple stuff at least, it can be the agent too. They further stated that the technology is focused on very specific use cases, and is now being tested with restaurant reservations, hair salon booking, and holiday hours with a limited set of trusted testers.

The primary use case mentioned in today's report is call centers, specifically the booming cloud-based market where Duplex's uncanny naturalness might serve as an advantage.

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. During a developer conference in May, CEO Sundar Pichai held a demonstration showing how Duplex could make a reservation at a salon or a hotel without the person on the other side supecting that they were communicating with an AI system.

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There is also the fact that consumers, in general, do not like dealing with automated customer service systems. That would be devastating for a nation like the Philippines, which has an estimated 1.2 million call-centre workers according to the Wall Street Journal. The idea of calling a customer service rep and not knowing whether you're talking to a robot or a human is a bit unsettling.

That may also have the complete opposite effect on people.

For those who came in late, AI Duplex anxious a lot of people because it was created to sound human.

According to The Information, one "large insurance company" is already testing, but it's still in "early stages" and months from going live.

That seems to be a hang-up for Google's efforts to get into the call centre business, as well. The interested company remains unnamed, but it is reported to be a large insurance company.

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