What Google isn’t telling us about its ‘Duplex’ AI demo

“Google made headlines by demonstrating an AI-powered voice assistant that made haircut and restaurant reservations, without betraying that it isn’t human,” Dan Primack reports for Axios. “But we have questions about the demos, which purported to be recordings of calls with real businesses.”

“Google told both developers and investors that it has created something remarkable, thus increasing its profile and value,” Primack reports. “When questioned further, however, it will not provide basic evidence to back up its boasts.”

Here’s the demo, as presented at Google’s developer conference by CEO Sundar Pichai:

“When you call a business, the person picking up the phone almost always identifies the business itself (and sometimes gives their own name as well). But that didn’t happen when the Google assistant called these ‘real’ businesses,” Primack reports. “Axios asked Google for the name of the hair salon or restaurant, in order to verify both that the businesses exist and that the calls were not pre-planned. We also said that we’d guarantee, in writing, not to publicly identify either establishment (so as to prevent them from receiving unwanted attention). A longtime Google spokeswoman declined to provide either name.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Google Duplex Duplicitous.

Something is rotten in Mountain View.

Why not demo it live? Why only play recordings? When is it rolling out to actual customers? Was there a hands-on after the event where members of the media or conference attendees could talk to Duplex? It’s totally credible that Google would be the first to achieve something like Duplex, but the fact that all they did — as far as I’ve seen — was play a recording just seems off. It feels like a con.John Gruber, Daring Fireball, May 11, 2018


    1. You know presentations like this among all industries are scripted to eliminate embarrassment as much as possible. Apple’s no stranger to the practice.

      1. This is Google’s modus operandi though, slick demos which are partly faked and then nothing ships, and nobody calls them on it. What Apple does isn’t close to this level of fakery.

      2. Typical duplicitous rhetorical tactic, Xennex! You lump Apple in with the rest and disparage them all as equals in crime.

        I have no doubt that Apple carefully choreographs its reveals at WWDC and other events. But, when the reveal is made, Apple does it live. You have seen clear evidence of that on a few occasions when things did not go quite right. The same thing with commercials – Apple uses live screen shots while many other commercials have a tiny “simulated display” disclaimer tucked away in the corner.

        You can gripe about the legitimate problems with Apple and its products. But you are not going to get away with lazily lumping Apple together with the rest and casually dismissing the issue with “they all do it.” Not on this forum. Because we know that Apple is different. Google, on the other hand, is no stranger to the faked demo.

        1. Simple statement about preparations made for presentations. Large industries have to prepare more than others to eliminate chances of embarrassing mistakes. If you want to view it as a “duplicitous rhetorical tactic” on my part that probably reflects more of your thought processes.

          Making Duplex a ‘live’ demo may have had problems in setting it up. The AI from what I understand is not making the call from your device to the establishment, rather it makes the call from the servers running Duplex and returns the result to your account which then updates on your device.

          If you actually did more research on the presentation you will have also come across the example they presented where Duplex did not work as well with the Chinese restaurant call with broken English.

          The original iPhone presentation as related in many an article and books was a carefully scripted use of an unfinished product. The programmers sweated bullets hoping Steve would not go off script at any point for their ‘live’ demo. I’m going to give Google here the same for their Duplex presentation.

      3. Any examples Xennex1170? I remember Jobs calling Starbucks live and ordering for the whole audience at one point. Another one he asked everyone to turn off their devices in order for his presentation to work. Don’t recall anything like Google did.

        1. Gotta say this sounds far too good to be true. It is such a leap forward by even the most optimistic forecasts that it just seems highly unlikely. Of course you do 40 to 50 calls and these are 2 of the times it went ok but that second one would have been difficult for a human to have managed let alone a an AI. reminds me of some of Microsofts displays from years ago that still to this day have never lived up to what they showed supposedly live Connect in particular which far from becoming the ground breaking advance that seemed imminent ended up on the scrapheap of technology. Lets see in 6 months maybe a year to give them some leeway if this is half as effective as they are suggesting. If it is then good luck to them but I have grave doubts.

          1. I too have doubts that it will work all the time. Human/Computer interaction is an ongoing process and study. In fact there are articles now promoting more Liberal Arts graduates be hired by tech companies to improve products that interact heavily with humans.

            Personally I foresee the best use of Duplex as a more advanced Interactive Voice Response or receiving side reservation system.

  1. I have received calls at home, where the caller does not ID themselves as robots, but clearly they are. I ask are you a robot? And they said no. I said I don’t believe you. Then the hang up. Why do I believe they are robots? It’s detail in the script. When you play music you are sensitive to timing. When you get multiple calls and you listen and the timing and guttural nuances are similar to past callers, you learn that it’s a recording or robocall.

    I think Google or other vendor has been practicing in the real world. And even what was demoed recently won’t pass muster, given time. It’s a sham. Be truthful, but really I would rather talk to a human being. At least an employed local caller.

    1. “And even what was demoed recently won’t pass muster … ”

      This is the important point, nothing was actually demoed, they played a recording. It was no more of a demo of Artificial Intelligence than Star Trek was a demo of teleporting.

      A credible demo is conducted live ( albeit carefully rehearsed and under optimum conditions ) and afterwards, delegates get to try it for themselves in hands-on sessions.

      When what you are shown is merely a recording with no opportunity for hands-on experience, it’s not a demo, it’s just a promo and people are right to ask why it wasn’t properly demonstrated for real.

      Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain, Oz has spoken.

      1. I suppose if someone at Google thought longer about it they could have had Duplex call the Presenter or have an audience member participate as the recipient of the call and put it on speakerphone. Hind vision as usual is 20/20.

        Having Duplex call an establishment while listening in may have been next to impossible since we can safely assume Duplex is not making the call from the mobile device.

        1. What is this? The Google apology tour? Is Google paying you?

          “I suppose if someone at Google thought longer about it they could have had Duplex call the Presenter or have an audience member participate as the recipient of the call and put it on speakerphone. Hind vision as usual is 20/20.”

          No, if Duplex was fully baked and ready Google would have done something like this. They didn’t because the technology isn’t ready, and given Google’s track record it may never work as advertised.

  2. Lets not act like sore losers a knock Duplex through desperate speculations …… what google demoded is mind blowing… not only Duplex but also their other AI related initiatives.!

    Google AI is way way way ahead of Apple’s in every shape and form..so are MS, Amazon , FB.. and alike …..there is no denying it.. ( if you do deny… then Its your emotions that are directing u not your objectivity )

    Apple AI is embarrassingly behind… starting with Basic spell check ! yes spell check, such basic and ancient feature, yet its dismal and their ego wont even allow them to reasses and improve it…… predictive and spell check live in two disconnected universes and both are dumb as can be relative to the competition …..
    Then come more complex issues of Contextual Word Recognition, Speach Recognition, Contextual Understanding, Search, Personalization and the dismal Digital Assistant called Siri…………and coherent, comprehensive implementation of All across the Apple ecosys… (at this time all are disjointed and sporadic)

    How often should one have to resort to Google on daily basis becouse Apples AI fails to offer solutions…. again from spell check to every Ai related/involved issue .
    How can that be something ignored by a Premum brand/product sold at a Premium price.

    Apple is Behind and Alarmingly so… ..its my biggest concern at this time!

    If Apple does not prioritize this massive deficiency and use all means available to catch up…..they are diging their own graves… … its going to come back and haunt them sooner than later..

    So Apple…. and fans.. dont deny… it accomplishes nothing.
    Instead awknowledge and . put the pressure on !
    Apple Run to catch up… days of strolling in the park with big egos are long gone !

    Its embarasing.
    Where is the sense of urgancy ? Excuses of privacy wont fly … find a way, differential privacy or whatever ……… Not doing so is not an option!
    Apple you have to solve this problem and catchup, yesterday !

    Concerned and embarrassed user and investor.

    1. PS..
      WWDC… couple weeks away..
      Does any one ‘Believe’ Apple will blow us away in any shape or form ?

      Im not sure.. not sure at All…
      hence, i belive, the sentiment renders a low PE.

      I Hope and Pray im wrong and Apple surprises me/us … and blows me/us away about the Future ….🤞🤞🤞🤞

      1. Clearly one is simply not allowed to question your wisdom, a lot of that is indeed valid but much is as speculative and wildly exaggerated and inaccurate as you accuse others of. Only when we see Duplex in real time can any demonstration be mind blowing without it, such claims are simply hyperbole be it from them or indeed you.

        1. I dont understand you choice of the word ” allowed ‘.
          You are allowed to do anything you like ….
          I am merely expressing my opinion.. and im pretty firm about it…
          It does not mean you are not ‘allowed’ to have yours ….

          Noting i wrote about Apple Ai is speculation… its direct experience! Zero hyperbole intended on my end.. i write it as i experiance it personsly.
          And im Not the only one either… just research the sentiment out there…

          Reacting too late .. well, it will be just that.. Too Late..
          They have already Stumbled enough.. for years . Those are not speculations.. its the status quo.

    2. Quit it, Yojimbo. Just quit it.

      People on this forum expressed their skepticism regarding the Google Duplex “demo,” which Ajit admitted was one of many recordings, not a live demo. Apple would not do it that way.

      You may be concerned and embarrassed. But that does not give you the right to twist things around and accuse others of some type of intellectual and emotional duplicity. We know Apple’s strengths and weaknesses, and all but the most rabid Apple fans are willing to admit its shortcomings. The difference is that we value Apple’s core value of personal privacy over Google’s core value of selling the customer as its product.

      Do I expect better from Siri? Certainly. And I am confident that Siri will continue to improve. Do I expect better from Apple in terms of Mac development – Mac Pros, Mac minis, etc.? Once again, yes, and I am confident that Apple will deliver, although admittedly much later than they should have delivered. Am I willing to sell my soul to Google for its “free” services and such? No. Not even though Duplex sounds like it might *potentially* be a breakthrough.

      1. Hey there nameless friend..
        ” the right” ?
        I write what i experience, think and believe .
        I am absolutly not twisting anything around or accusing .. accusing who of what? .. accusing is normaly correlated with guilt … what guilt..who’s guilt .?
        Do i find some people/fanboys guity of something … No…
        Do i see them being biased… Yes…
        Do i see them closing their eyes on the truth. Yes…
        Am i critical of that approach , Yes …

        ….but guilt and accusation and twisting are your choice of words not mine !

        I am merely stating things as i see them .
        I have the right to write what i see.. they are my opinions, My experience and my concerns.
        You do the same.. you have the right.. …

        But accusation is nowhere in the formula… …… its concern !

        At the end.. your emotions about Google seem to have overshadowed the actual issues i addressed ..( maybe you should read some of my posts re google starting 10 years ago when google ripped off iOS, thanks to Eric Mole ‘Schidth’, …. if availible… and how i have bashed the company. Maybe that will clarify my stance and values )

        Not a single word in my post suggested you or anyone sell your souls to Google!
        On the contrary
        I said Apple should urgently solve this issue so we wont have to resort to Google….

        Where do we disagree again ? ( including Pro issues.. i have been one of the loudest advocate in the last few years re this and many other similar issues and have been subject to very harsh comebacks in Apple forums ..only to see that in time many have come to agree …….mounting pressure on Apple to change course.. .and Apple did and hopefully are .
        Yes, i have firmly shown concern about many many things and still do .. all encountered with charged comebacks…. initially…. )

        Having said that
        Most everything u wrote is in sync with what i wrote.. differnt wording….Same concerns..
        With one big differance i believe , you have confidence in Apple… yet i have been losing confidance in Apple.. Hense my persistence to express myself , becouse i care !

        It seems you are stiking back at me..!?

        Why?.. makes no sense. ( if emotions are not involved )

  3. Leave MDN.
    MDN served an ad on my Mac last night that was unforgivable.
    It simulated a virus attack, with sophisticated graphics that could make the novice Mac user fear his Mac had downloaded several viruses.
    It was deliberate and very convincing.
    I had to force quit Safari.
    Of course, there was no virus, but this behavior can not be tolerated.
    I urge you to remove MacDailyNews from your bookmarks, delete the app, and paste this message on future discussion boards.
    MDN is selling exploitative ads. Unacceptable.

      1. That is another way of looking at that particular situation, Snoop. Think about it.

        As far as what Jas Jas posted – I agree completely. I ran into the exact same issue and had to force quit Safari. Surely MDN surfs its own web site sometimes in order to check out its functionality and appearance?

        Increasingly, MDN seems more Google-like and less Apple-like, and I find myself seeking alternatives to the increasingly political and partisan Takes and posts on this forum. MDN used to reflect the culture and essence of Apple – a kindred spirit, so to speak – but that has not been the case for at least five years. RIP SteveJack. You were the Steve Jobs of MDN, and MDN no longer has an Apple soul.

    1. MDN routinely castigates Apple for losing its vision along with Steve Jobs. However, MDN fails to recognize that it, too, has lost its vision, its focus on Apple, its optimism, its sense of wonder, the anticipation of new things, and the barbed, but ever so accurate humor that made the MDN Takes fun to read.

      Perhaps, MDN is aging and reaching its natural end of life. The people who are now in charge of this website no longer appear to appreciate Apple and its works with praise for the good things and constructive criticism for the less than stellar. Instead, it is political diatribes and name-calling, like Pipeline Timmy.

      Coming to this web site has become a habit over the past couple of decades. It is time to break that habit, because this web site has lost its way and no longer shares the values of the true Apple advocates and fans. CYA

  4. Live tech demoes have a long history of going bad. In fact, it inspired the clarion call of ‘get a mac’ back in the olde days of gates mucking up his demoes. The phrase eventually became an Apple ad campaign years later

    1. And I appreciate the fact that Apple takes that risk at every WWDC and during its ad hoc product release events. Apple is real. Others often fake it – they are simply self-promoters.

  5. the funny thing is Sundar had to emphasize ” that was a real call” after each recording which can be made easily without having any kind of real life device demo. I call this fake. sorry.

    1. Considering that Duplex is not a device demo (unless you want to somehow move Google’s AI Cloud servers) a recording may not have been the worst choice.

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