Google Duplex A.I. Turned Smartphones Into Reservation-Making Assistants 

Duplex, Google’s next-generation voice assistant took voice assistants to the next level. As of late November, Pixel phones can be commanded to call a restaurant and reserve a table using the Google Assistant.

The software update was announced in March during the annual Google I/O developer conference. It gave the Google Assistant a shockingly realistic human voice, which Inverse got to experience first-hand in June. During the live demo, the A.I. managed mimic the “uhhs” and “umms” that pepper human conversation, an incredible leap in the field of natural language processing.

This is #4 on Inverse’s list of the 20 Ways A.I. Became More Human in 2018.

Currently, this service is limited to restaurant-booking, though the tech giant will soon enable users to book appointments at hair salons as well. For now, the feature is exclusively available on Pixel phones in Atlanta, New York City, Phoenix, and San Francisco. Google hasn’t announced a clear timeline for its full release, but Duplex has already transformed smartphone A.I. from relatively gimmicky way to pull up the weather into an assistant that actually responds to your needs.

While its immediate applications are narrow in scope, Google’s Vice President of Product and Design, Nick Fox told Inverse over the summer that he sees the potential for Duplex to shatter language barriers.

“There’s the opportunity to [give people] the ability to call a business in a country where [they] don’t speak the language,” says Fox. “I’d be able to speak to the assistant in a language that I speak and then it could speak to the business in a language that makes sense to them. That’s a really interesting way this system can be used to break language barriers.”

In the not-so-distant future we could be using the Google Assistant to book tables when we’re traveling abroad.