Back in May at Google I/O, there was a big stir about one new feature Google was planning to roll out. That feature was Duplex, an augmentation of Google Assistant. The demonstration was so good, it inspired some pundits to decry it as fake. They said that it couldn’t be done at the consumer level.
Google is now in the process of proving them wrong, or right, depending on your perspective. Engadget has what few details there are.
“After months of hype, Google’s reservation-placing Duplex AI is available to the general public — if only just. The company has confirmed to VentureBeat that Duplex is rolling out to a ‘small group’ of Pixel phone users in ‘select cities.’ It wasn’t specific about those cities, but it likely includes the previously announced cities of Atlanta, New York City, Phoenix and San Francisco. Google is starting with a ‘slow rollout’ to ensure a ‘good experience’ for both Pixel owners and businesses,”
The detractors were at least partially correct. This brave new world where computers do the dirty work of making our appointments for us is not quite here yet — at least, not the way Google presented it. The tech is clearly not quite there yet.
The rollout is only to a small subset of a tiny initial set. It would still be a small number even if it were distributed to all Pixel owners. But only a small number of them will see the feature. Besides trying to use it, there is no clear way of knowing if users even have it, or when users will gain access to said functionality.
It is concerning — but not altogether unheard of — that a larger distribution being held back to ensure a “good experience.” It is common in the realm of technology to beta test real world applications amongst a group of power users. And Google likely already know that distribution of this enhancement will be somewhat problematic at first.
Another limitation is that users will not be able to make appointments with hair salons. Google initially demonstrated the ability to have the digital assistant make an appointment for a session with a stylist. There is no word when — or if — that feature will roll out.
When these features were first introduced, there was a lot of speculation about who these features were for. The executive who already has an actual assistant may not need a digital replacement.
There was also some talk about accessibility. Those who cannot use a phone or speak the language confidently might find the service useful. While that is not the stated goal of this product, it could become an aid for accessibility over time.
Until then, most smartphone owners will just have to pick up the phone and make our appointments the old-fashioned way.