You will be able to book restaurant reservations and hair appointments and to check holiday hours, everything you’d normally do over the phone with Google Assistant on your behalf. A future feature of Google’s voice assistant,the virtual assistant that’s part of the company’s Android and Google Home devices, is the ability to make an appointment by phone for you. This is the beginning of transforming Google Assistant to become a digital twin of you.
A new technology called “Wavenet”, an AI-based voice synthesizer created by Deep Mind, a subsidiary of Google UK, uses sound waves rather than speech fragments to form sentences, allowing Google to simulate an entire vocabulary with much less human recording. With Wavenet, Google could potentially lure in other celebrities to voice your Google Assistant. WaveNet was first integrated into Google Assistant, WaveNet uses machine learning to generate audio from scratch. It actually analyzes the waveforms from a huge database of human speech and re-creates them at a rate of 24,000 samples per second. The end result includes voices with subtleties like lip smacks and accents.
Being 2 years old, Google Assistant is getting rebranded as Duplex, a digital assistant that can call a local business to make appointments on your behalf over the phone. Duplex is not yet a working product but Google CEO Sundar Pichai introduced it onstage on Tuesday at the company’s I/O developer conference with only a pre-recorded phone call. The demo showed how Google Assistant could sound much more lifelike and Duplex is so convincingly human because Google includes ticks like “uh” and “um” and other more colloquial phrases into the Assistant’s verbal library. It also shows how far Google Assistant has come in terms of understanding conversational language.
The Google team uses Real-time supervised training to train the system in a new domain. In the Duplex system, experienced operators act as the instructors. By monitoring the system as it makes phone calls in a new domain, they can affect the behavior of the system in real time as needed. This continues until the system performs at the desired quality level, at which point the supervision stops and the system can make calls autonomously.
Google Assistant currently lets you pick between one female (‘Holly’ is the official name of Google Assistant’s current default voice) and one male voice. Now the Assistant has added six new voices .i.e. total of eight choices. The voices aren’t labeled with specific names. Instead, each is designated by a color, like red, orange or green. Each one is a different pitch and speed might vary slightly between voices. You select the one you want by scrolling through your phone’s settings. When you’re connected to a Google Home, you just pick your favorite voice setting and the speaker will recognize your voice and respond with the Assistant voice of your choice. As part of Wavenet, American singer-songwriter John Legend will also be coming to Assistant later this year.
The Assistant is the essence of Google, set free from the search box on the company’s iconic, sparse homepage. Currently with Assistant, you can get morning news headlines from your Google Home, point your phone’s camera at a flower to discover what species it is or turn up your thermostat so the house is a comfortable temperature when you get home. But now the technology is directed towards completing specific tasks, such as scheduling certain types of appointments, to book flight tickets, order food, book a table at a restaurant and even let you control all aspects of your connected home, in case you’re already on that journey. For such tasks, the system makes the conversational experience as natural as possible, allowing people to speak normally, like they would to another person. Duplex will make its call from an outside number when its user asks it to complete the task; the human won’t be able to listen in or intervene. The system also has a self-monitoring capability, which allows it to recognize the tasks it cannot complete autonomously (e.g., scheduling an unusually complex appointment). It seeks a human help in this case.
Here’s how to change your Assistant’s voice on your own Android phone.
- Summon Google Assistant by pressing the Home button or saying, “Hey Google,” then press the blue icon in the top right of the Assistant window.
- That icon opens the Google Assistant app. Tap the menu in the top right of the screen, denoted by three vertical dots.
- Tap Settings.
- Choose Preferences.
- Select Assistant Voice. You can preview each of the eight Assistant voices by tapping on each one.
With this new speaking ability, Google Assistant gets much closer to the evolution of next level of computing. Duplex passes the Turing test, it’s a way of potentially evaluating a machine’s ability to demonstrate intelligent behavior, proposed in 1950 by English computer scientist Alan Turing. To pass the Turing test ,measuring machine’s intelligence, a computer’s natural language responses would have to be indistinguishable to a human. But it’s to be noted that it passes in only one specific way i.e. in the distinctive task of booking appointments.
Duplex brings together advancements in speech recognition, deep learning, and text-to-speech technology to create something that is futuristic, and extremely forward-looking. It’s like Google’s digital helper is ready to be more helpful. Other important updates are:
- Continued Conversation: Words like ‘Hey Google’ and ‘OK Google’ has long been one of the most common triggering the Google Home smart speakers and Android phones. You can now have a more natural conversation without having to trigger the commands after every sentence with Assistant, and it will also be able to distinguish between when you are talking to it or to another person.
- Pretty Please: This is the latest extension of Google Home powered by Family Link , using Google Assistant’s voice recognition to enforce manners only on selected members of your household. This will provide positive reinforcement to users (especially kids) when they converse with the Assistant using polite words like Please and Thank You. Assistant also features free family-friendly content that includes games, activities, and stories from Google’s partners such as Disney.
- Multiple Actions: Multiple Actions allows Google’s virtual assistant to perform simultaneous actions in the same voice command, using coordination reduction to figure out exactly what the user means even with longer commands. For instance, users can ask it to set a reminder and play a stream in one voice message.
- Smart Displays: While voice commands will still remain the key feature of the virtual assistant, users will be able to access the screen for added convenience. With the displays, you will be able to watch live streams, control your smart home, and make video calls using Google Duo. In partnership with OEMs like JBL, LG, and Lenovo, Google’s first Smart Displays will be available for sale starting July.
- New visual experience on smartphones: Google Keep, Todoist, Any.do, and other note-keeping services will be available on Google Assistant so that users need not have to open the apps to use them. Further, Google has also tied up with Starbucks, Doordash, 7-Eleven, and Applebee’s in the US to offer a chat-style delivery and pick-up interface for food orders.
- The Assistant will also begin navigation in Google Maps later this year, with a low visual profile so you can keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road. You’ll be able to send text messages, play music and podcasts, and get information without leaving the navigation screen.
- Additionally, Assistant will now provide a snapshot of the day’s summary customised for users, by swiping up on the Google Assistant app. This will include reminders, directions, and other contextual cards.
When Google’s Duplex Assistant makes phone calls, the humans on the other end didn’t realize they were dealing with artificial intelligence software, rather than a real customer. That’s an important thing to think.. Is it?? I think there should be some kind of mechanism there to let people know what it is?i.e. are they speaking to a bot or human? Was it not impressive, if it says “Hi, I’m a robot calling on behalf of Google”. ?? Or was it the basic nature of Humans not liking to speak to machines?? Whatever it may be, there is an urgent need to figure out proper governance of machines fooling people into thinking it’s human. Anyways, the Assistant team is looking to safeguard the product against misuses like spam calling. I hope they succeed…
There is no doubt that Google Assistant is the best and smartest digital assistant out there. This could be the next evolution of the Assistant, Google’s rival to Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana. Google calls Duplex an “experiment” that a limited number of Google Assistant users will be able to try this summer. If the Google’s experiment becomes reality, it’s a huge technological achievement for Google, and for us the Assistant will truly be our digital assistant available in more than 30 languages and 80 countries by the end of the year.