Google’s recent update created quite a stir when it unveiled the AI based Duplex system at the I/O Conference 2018. The system can actually make phone calls in a human voice for tasks like booking a movie ticket or booking a restaurant table. Instead of the reactive chatbot conversation utilised in customer support functions, the Duplex is designed to be more proactive voice assistant to the users.
However, with this news came a public outcry against the ethical implications associated with Google Duplex. The AI-based system will have voice like capabilities to book an appointment on behalf of the user. This has been criticised as it is prone to hacks and abuse. Google has been quick to refute these criticisms by saying that a fully working product was not yet developed. They also mentioned that the AI human-like voice will positively identify itself before making these appointments. This in-built disclosure is said to be a hopeful answer to the ethics and privacy concerns shared by people world over after its CEO Sundar Pichai launched the product on stage at the 2018 annual developer conference.
The concern about the AI based Duplex System
Google employs Deep Mind’s new WaveNet Audio Generation technique to mimic a human voice and carry out the scheduling tasks over phone calls. It doesn’t identify itself as a human bot and purposefully trick a person on the other line (for example a receptionist at a haircut salon or the restaurant manager) with surprisingly effective human voice, complete with natural ticks like ‘umm’ and ‘aahh’!
This caused significant outrage from general audience and the followers of the I/O conference the world over. They feel that such AI systems are being created without appropriate regulation or protocols. Tech critics have gone on to say that the development is not positive and the lack of alarm demonstrated by the audience seems troubling.
The workaround to this dilemma
Google has mentioned that transparency in technology is critical. Hence, it will take all steps to ensure that an in-built disclosure is prompted before the conversation. They also said that the demonstration in the conference was an early product demo and is not a full-scale product awaiting launch. Readers would recollect that on-stage, the product demo consisted of a pre-recorded phone call to showcase the product features to the audience.
Another blog from Google Engineers Yossi Matias and Yaniv Leviathan mentions that Google’s prerogative was always on delivering the best customer experience with this product. They wanted to make it clear about what the call’s intention will be so that users and businesses can recognise the value of the system. They wrapped up by saying that Google is yet to figure out how to eventually roll it out and has been testing with quite a few experiments to integrate it with its voice technology based Assistant platform.
What are your thoughts on the Duplex system that makes phone calls on behalf of the users in a human-like voice? Do write in with your comment and let us know.