The past few days have been super exciting for followers and admirers of developments in Artificial Intelligence. Google demoed an automated conversational interface at their annual conference – Google I/O 2018.

While bots and conversational assistants have been around for the past couple of years, they were not truly independent thinkers. Most programs are if-else scripts with necessary intelligence plastered on the top to masquerade them as intelligent agents. Google, however, has blown everyone out of the water with Google Duplex.

Two things stand out:

1. The ability of Google Duplex to understand the context and indulge in a conversation even when the opposing party is responding weirdly or maybe intentionally making it difficult for it to be a direct conversation.

2. Google Duplex is so far ahead of everybody else – Alexa, Siri, and Cortana – that it’s a reality check for GAFAM (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft [minus Google, of course]) to wake up and respond to Google’s challenge.

Google is happy role-playing a challenger and letting the other big four focus on notches on their phones or raising the price of Prime membership. The fact remains that this is a paradigm shift for tech enthusiasts and corporations alike.

Conspiracy theorists have historically called the Apollo moon landings a fake. Their theory uses an assumption that it was a deliberate ploy by Americans to bankrupt erstwhile U.S.S.R. by forcing the latter to pump millions of dollars into space exploration programs. True or not, it did unleash a new era of space rocket launches and satellite technology.

funny take on fake Apollo landings conspiracy theory

Google Duplex technology may not be as grandiose as a rocket launch, but on an evolutionary scale, the feat is right up there. Automation in conversations is going to create a new standard for how we interact and utilize technology in our day-to-day lives. Here are a few examples:

Social Utility

Google has already demoed appointments and bookings as a use case – the familiar ground zero. Once the technology matures further – Salons, Doctors, DMV, Movies, Restaurants, Personal Trainers, Therapists, Cabs, and eCommerce – are all a fair game.

Google Duplex

Emergency Care

For patients in distress with vocal communication compromised, a tap on the phone dials 911, and the conversational assistant spits out the address and the emergency type (fire, health, or personal safety). If the conversational assistant has access to the health records and vitals from the on-body hardware (watch or another device), it could also support the paramedics when they arrive.

emergency care through automation

Companionship

The conversational assistant doesn’t necessarily have to reside in a mobile app or another software program. It can call a moving hardware device its home. When that happens, we are looking at Flubber-like devices (remember the Robin Williams movie?). These companion devices have the potential to assist patients who have PTSD, suicidal tendencies, or similar situations where a companion being (or machine) adds value.

flubber-like devices

More use cases are possible as the technology becomes available to the developer community.

Imagine a conversational assistant talking a drunk driver out of driving.

We are on the cusp of a technological revolution, and it’s unstoppable. Not too long ago, Facebook shut down a robot program because the robots developed their language and the designers could not follow what they were talking about, or worse, plotting. The incident indicates much progress is required before we can sing and dance to the joys of AI, bots and social automation, but Google Duplex is leading the way, and we are not far from both positive and negative use cases arising out of the implementation of the technology.

 Heralds, tomorrow – AI incoming.

 

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