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[Others] What Is Google Duplex and How Does it Work: Everything You Need to Know!

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23:25, May-09-2018 | From PC
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Hello MIUI'ers,

Getting calls from automated bots is an annoying waste of time, but at least it’s easy to recognise an artificial voice and hang up. Imagine if that voice was a lot more convincing, and imagine if it wasn’t only telemarketers who used it – what if this persuasive imitation of a human had access to enough information about your life that it could pretend to be you?

That was the vision of the future set out by Google during the company’s I/O 2018 conference. Among the raft of announcements, the most impressive and unsetting was the addition of something called Google Duplex for Google Assistant.

google-assistant-duplex-io-2018.png


What is Google Duplex?

Duplex is new technology that enables Google's machine intelligence–powered virtual assistant, to conduct a natural conversation with a human over the phone, mimicking the chit-chattiness of human speech as it completes simple real-world tasks.

It's for conducting natural conversations to carry out “real world” tasks over the phone. The technology is directed towards completing specific tasks, such as scheduling certain types of appointments.

google-ai.jpg
Initially Google Duplex will focus on three kinds of task: making restaurant reservations, scheduling hair appointments and finding out businesses’ holiday opening hours.

How Does Duplex Work?

The Google Duplex system is capable of carrying out sophisticated conversations and it completes the majority of its tasks fully autonomously, without human involvement.

The system has a self-monitoring capability, which allows it to recognize the tasks it cannot complete autonomously (e.g., scheduling an unusually complex appointment). In these cases, it signals to a human operator, who can complete the task.

ok_for_4_big.png

Duplex talks like a normal person, and that makes it a natural – and natural-sounding – extension to the OK Google functionality we already know. Let’s stick with the restaurant example.

With Duplex, we could say “OK Google, find me a table for Friday night” and the Google app would then call restaurants on your behalf. Not only that, but it would have conversations – so if you wanted a table for around 7:30 but there wasn’t one, it could ask what times were available and decide whether those times fit your criteria.

If not, the Google app would call another restaurant. Similarly, if you wanted to arrange a meeting with Sarah, the Google app could call Sarah (or Sarah’s AI) to talk through the available time slots and agree which one would be best.

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Technology Behind Duplex

At the core of Duplex is a recurrent neural network (RNN) designed to cope with these challenges, built using TensorFlow Extended (TFX). To obtain its high precision, we trained Duplex’s RNN on a corpus of anonymized phone conversation data. The network uses the output of Google’s automatic speech recognition (ASR) technology, as well as features from the audio, the history of the conversation, the parameters of the conversation (e.g. the desired service for an appointment, or the current time of day) and more. We trained our understanding model separately for each task but leveraged the shared corpus across tasks. Finally, we used hyperparameter optimization from TFX to further improve the model.



rnn_big.png

Sounding Natural
There has been a use of a combination of a concatenative text to speech (TTS) engine and a synthesis TTS engine (using Tacotron and WaveNet) to control intonation depending on the circumstance.

The system also sounds more natural thanks to the incorporation of speech disfluencies (e.g. “hmm”s and “uh”s). These are added when combining widely differing sound units in the concatenative TTS or adding synthetic waits, which allows the system to signal in a natural way that it is still processing. (This is what people often do when they are gathering their thoughts.)



google_duplex.jpg

Also, it’s important for latency to match people’s expectations. For example, after people say something simple, e.g., “hello?”, they expect an instant response, and are more sensitive to latency. When we detect that low latency is required, we use faster, low-confidence models (e.g. speech recognition or endpointing). In extreme cases, we don’t even wait for our RNN, and instead use faster approximations (usually coupled with more hesitant responses, as a person would do if they didn’t fully understand their counterpart). This allows us to have less than 100ms of response latency in these situations.

Advantages of Google Duplex

For Business:
  • Businesses that rely on appointment bookings supported by Duplex, and are not yet powered by online systems, can benefit from Duplex by allowing customers to book through the Google Assistant without having to change any day-to-day practices or train employees.
  • Using Duplex could also reduce no-shows to appointments by reminding customers about their upcoming appointments in a way that allows easy cancellation or rescheduling.

25961-36271-google-duplex-l.jpg

  • In another example, customers often call businesses to inquire about information that is not available online such as hours of operation during a holiday. Duplex can call the business to inquire about open hours and make the information available online with Google, reducing the number of such calls businesses receive, while at the same time, making the information more accessible to everyone. Businesses can operate as they always have, there are no learning curve or changes to make to benefit from this technology.

image-2018-05-08-at-2-26-01-pm.jpg

For users,
  • Google Duplex is making supported tasks easier. Instead of making a phone call, the user simply interacts with the Google Assistant, and the call happens completely in the background without any user involvement.

  • Another benefit for users is that Duplex enables delegated communication with service providers in an asynchronous way, e.g., requesting reservations during off-hours, or with limited connectivity. It can also help address accessibility and language barriers, e.g., allowing hearing-impaired users, or users who don’t speak the local language, to carry out tasks over the phone.

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Allowing people to interact with technology as naturally as they interact with each other has been a long-standing promise. Google Duplex takes a step in this direction, making interaction with technology via natural conversation a reality in specific scenarios.

Its real promise – of being able to hold a huge range of open-ended conversations in a human-like way – remains a decades–away dream reliant on an artificial general intelligence breakthrough. And if anyone is capable of making that breakthrough, it’s probably Google.


How Do You Feel about the Google Duplex?



Sources: 1, 2, 3
image source: Google




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