Speech Technology Magazine

 

Google Duplex Mimics Human Conversation, Raises Concerns

Duplex, which can use speech disfluencies like "um" and "ah" to sound more human—perhaps too human—can also make phone calls and appointments.
Posted May 15, 2018
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May is turning out to be a hotbed of activity around ethical issues and voice technology. Google raised more than few eyebrows with its Duplex, which works alongside Google Assistant, at its Google’s I/O conference. Duplex, which can use speech disfluencies like “um” and “ah” to sound more human—perhaps too human—can also make phone calls and appointments.

According to a Google blog post, where you can also hear examples of Duplex in action, “One of the key research insights was to constrain Duplex to closed domains, which are narrow enough to explore extensively. Duplex can only carry out natural conversations after being deeply trained in such domains. It cannot carry out general conversations.”

But Duplex’s ability to call up an unwitting human and make, for instance, a restaurant reservation, gave some people pause. These concerns prompted Google to emphasize its focus on disclosure A Google spokeswoman said in a statement, "We are designing this feature with disclosure built-in, and we'll make sure the system is appropriately identified. What we showed at I/O was an early technology demo, and we look forward to incorporating feedback as we develop this into a product."

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