The new Google Assistant feature, which shocked the world at this year's I/O developer conference because it sounded like a human, will apparently introduce itself as artificial intelligence.
The feature drew controversy over ethical concerns on a robot masquerading as a person, but it looks like Google is already trying to cover its bases to minimize the backlash.
Google Duplex Unveiled At I/O 2018
This year's Google I/O 2018 announcements include augmented reality for Google Maps and artificial intelligence for the new Gmail feature Smart Compose. However, arguably the most head-turning news from the annual developers' conference involves Google Duplex, which works with Google Assistant.
In a demonstration at I/O 2018 hosted by Google CEO Sundar Pichai, Google Duplex was shown calling in behalf of the user to schedule a salon appointment and a restaurant reservation. The surprising thing about the AI-driven voice feature, however, is that it sounded like it was a real human in both cases. Instead of the semi-robotic voice typically heard from digital assistants, Google Duplex convincingly makes itself sound like a human through verbal ticks such as "uh" and "um," with pauses and elongations heard in normal talk.
Google Duplex is considered a very impressive Google Assistant feature by some people, but it has also received backlash. Some believe that it was a sign that companies are developing AI technologies without proper regulation or oversight, with Google Duplex serving as proof that AI is now smart enough to trick humans.
Google Duplex To Introduce Itself As A Robot
At I/O 2018, neither Pichai nor Google clarified whether Google Duplex will identify itself as AI when it talks to humans. Google has now given a clear answer for that.
"We are designing this feature with disclosure built-in, and we'll make sure the system is appropriately identified," said a Google spokeswoman in a statement. She added that the version of Google Duplex that was previewed at the annual developers' conference was "an early technology demo," with Google to incorporate what it learns from feedback in the development of the release version.
However, it remains unclear how Google will add disclosures to the Google Assistant feature. It is possible that Google Duplex will state at the start of the call that a robot is at the other end of the line, which is not seen in the Google I/O 2018 demonstration.
Google has not yet decided how to handle the disclosures to let people know that they are talking to an AI-powered system. A lot of things could still change until the Google Duplex launch, so we will just have to wait and see how Google reacts to the controversy.