Google is developing an intelligent assistant capable of not only understanding the complex intricacies of informal speech, but also expressing itself in such a way it sounds human. Maybe just too human.
Creating seamless human-computer interaction has long been a goal of developers, researchers and engineers. Although we’ve taken huge steps since the breakthroughs of the Xerox PARC research team in the late 70s, computers still have a hard time understanding and replicating natural conversation. That is, until now.
This week at Google’s annual developers conference in Mountain View, the company unveiled a mind-blowing demo in which an incredibly natural-sounding artificial intelligence is able to interact with humans and book appointments over the phone.
Watch the video in the player above
The new technology is called Google Duplex, an artificial intelligence capable of conducting natural, flowing conversations to achieve “real world” tasks over the phone.
So far the technology is able to adopt various different voices, use speech disfluencies (those “uh”s and “hmm”s we use when we’re thinking of what to say) and even more shockingly, it’s able to adjust latency to match people’s expectations.
For example, when we say something simple, like a “hello?”, we expect an almost instant response. Conversely, we expect some degree of latency after we’ve stated a complicated statement. Yeah, Google Duplex can handle all these things.
Google showcased some examples during the conference and have posted a lot more on their blog about the technology – and I have to say, it’s mind-blowing, eerie and astonishing all at the same time.
Google’s AI navigates the conversations so effortlessly, if you didn’t know which is the AI and which is the human, you’d have real trouble telling them apart.
The AI says “hmmm”, pauses at the all the right moments, elaborates on previous comments, handles interruptions and recaps. “We are still developing this technology,” said CEO Sundar Pichai during the presentation.
As part of an experiment, Google Duplex will be rolled out to a limited number of testers in the following weeks.