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Google Duplex: What it is and what Google's doing next

How Google's AI wants to make your life easier. Here's what we know.

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Duplex can make calls for you to set up reservations.

Google

Duplex is Google's name for AI software that can be used like a super-smart assistant to make reservations for you, both over the phone and online. There are two services right now that use this name, one that's decidedly creepier than the other. We're going to break them down. Google first rolled out Duplex last year as a powerful voice assistant that would make calls for you to perform a few services -- such as making dinner reservations. But Duplex's way-too-human voice and mannerisms kind of freaked people out.

In response, Google this month  said it is working on a second way to use the service called Duplex for web, which is like autofill on steroids. Duplex on the web will start small, including helping you rent a car and buy movie tickets online.

Here's what we know about Duplex, the one that debuted last year that can perform actions for you using AI-driven voice assistance, and Duplex on the web, the new version of the assistant that can help you accomplish simple tasks online.

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What is Duplex on the web?

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Duplex on the web, making a car reservation.

Google

At this year's developer conference, Google unveiled Duplex on the web, an extension of the Duplex virtual assistant that can accomplish simple tasks on the web. For example, when you ask it to, Duplex on the web will be able to navigate to a car rental site and begin filling in reservation information -- including dates of the trip -- pausing when you need to make choices such as car category and then to approve the transaction.

When will Google release Duplex on the web?

Google expects Duplex on the web to be available later this year in the US and UK on Android phones to assist with rental car bookings and movie ticket purchases.

Where is Duplex on the web getting information from?

Duplex on the web pulls information from Google Calendar, your Gmail inbox and Chrome autofill to complete a task online.

What is the first version of Duplex?

Introduced at Google I/O 2018, Duplex can make phone calls for you to complete tasks like set up a dinner reservation, book an appointment or check business hours. If you say, "Hey, Google, book me a reservation at ABC Restaurant," Duplex will leap into action to place the call on your behalf.

Why did people freak out over Duplex last year?

Seeing Duplex in action is both amazing and unsettling, knowing that half the phone conversation is being carried out by a very human-sounding voice assistant. Google worked hard to have Duplex sound human, and that effort to make Duplex interactions sound real raised questions about the ethics of having a human-sounding robot perform real-world tasks for you on a call without the other party knowing.

Which phones can I use with Duplex, and how do I know it's working?

The voice-driven Duplex works on any Android device running version 5.0 and later and on iPhones with Google Assistant installed. It is available in 43 states.

Will Duplex tell the business it's talking to a robot?

At the start of a call, Duplex will identify itself as a Google assistant and state the reason for the call. The call will also originate from a Google number, either (650) 203-0000 or (650) 206-5555.

Will Duplex record the conversation?

Google said it does record Duplex calls and will disclose that information during the call in states that require disclosing that a call is being recorded.

Can a business opt out of receiving Duplex calls?

A business can either call Google or change its Google My Business settings to not receive automated calls from the Google Assistant.