Google loses some prestige over its suspect Duplex AI demo
Google Inc. may have wowed the world with its demonstration of its almost too-human artificially intelligent Duplex virtual assistant, and it may have also been almost too good to be true.
The short clip of Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai demonstrating the uncanny reality of the voice assistant making an appointment with a hair salon and speaking with staff at a restaurant did indeed make us think differently about the ability of transactional AI.
The video clip on YouTube has amassed almost 1.5 million views and if you didn’t see it on your Facebook feed, you weren’t looking. Google hit it out of the park, and soon people were talking about the financial implications for the company as well as the ethical considerations of talking to robots in disguise.
But now the company is suspected of employing legerdemain on the stage of its I/O developer conference, accused of artifice in its dazzling demo of artificial intelligence.
Axios investigated the case and Thursday came to the conclusion that some subterfuge was afoot. First, neither the restaurant nor the salon in the demo gave a company name when called. Second, there’s no ambient noise at the businesses where the AI did the talking. When Axios called many local businesses, there was such noise. On top of that, neither of the businesses asked for any contact information.
Mashable went a step further and contacted the manager of the restaurant where Duplex had apparently made a reservation. This destination was discovered from a photo taken of Duplex engineers Yaniv Leviathan and Matan Kalman, who ate there following the reservation. The writer asked the manager if Google had informed him of the planned Duplex test in advance, and he said it did not.
And so the upshot is that Google may have been less than forthcoming about how the performance was put together. Axios reached out to Google to ask the names of the places Duplex contacted and Google declined to give the information. When asked if the demo was preplanned or edited, Google declined to comment.
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