Google sign and bar seating area Google sign and bar seating area Google's R&D offices in Tel Aviv, Israel, are punctuated with modern, colorful designs. (Photo: Itay Sikolski / Camenzind Evolution)

Google is upgrading its version of Siri – and it sounds just like us

The tech giant is promising a real human experience with its new Duplex system.

Humans and computers haven't always been a match made in tech heaven. Some things get lost in translation to the point of consternation. You end up wishing that virtual personal assistant you bought yourself for Christmas was ... an actual person.

Google, the tech giant that brought you, well, everything – claims to be perfecting the personal assistant game to the nth degree, in the form of Google Duplex. It's Google's answer to Siri and Alexa, and it's been developed primarily in Google's research and development operations in Tel Aviv, Israel.

Optical illusion area The meeting area of Google's Tel Aviv office. (Photo: Itay Sikolski / Camenzind Evolution)

According to Google's tireless engineers, this is way more than a virtual taskmaster. Duplex can actually make calls for you – not just dial the number, but talk to the person at the other end, too. Need to make a hair appointment? Duplex does it. Restaurant reservation? Duplex can do that too.

And it sounds eerily similar to a real, live human being. Check out the unveiling video:

In a blog post announcing Duplex, two of Google's top engineers, Israelis Yaniv Leviathan and Yossi Matias, said they've been working exhaustively on trying to incorporate natural speech and conversation into Google's products.

"When people talk to each other, they use more complex sentences than when talking to computers. They often correct themselves mid-sentence, are more verbose than necessary, or omit words and rely on context instead ..." the engineers explained. "The [Duplex] technology is directed towards completing specific tasks, such as scheduling certain types of appointments. For such tasks, the system makes the conversational experience as natural as possible, allowing people to speak normally, like they would to another person, without having to adapt to a machine."

The system, they said, "is capable of carrying out sophisticated conversations" and "completes the majority of its tasks fully autonomously, without human involvement." It even adds the occasional "uh" and "um" to take the experience to fully immersible – and quite humorous – levels.

The Google team plans to test the technology within Google Assistant systems this summer.

A slide between office floors A slide between floors of the Google office in Tel Aviv. (Photo: Itay Sikolski / Camenzind Evolution)


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