I think we all remember seeing the impressive Google Duplex demos at Google I/O 2018 a few weeks ago. I know I’ve personally shown the video to multiple people, telling them about how I’ll never have to talk on the phone again. That’s obviously some wishful thinking on my part, but it does seem that there may be more than a little bit fishy about the demo. Did Google stage the calls for the Google Duplex demo at I/O? Were the calls at the very least edited prior to showtime? Google is being very tight-lipped about the whole ordeal.
There were a few things that seemed a bit fishy about the demo in retrospect. Having worked retail-adjacent for a number of years, it’s drilled into the heads of anybody answering a business phone to greet callers with the business name and possibly even the employee’s name when answering. In both instances, this step was skipped. It’s possible that Google simply edited out those parts of the call, but we’ll touch more on that in a bit.
Axios put that assumption to the test and called several dozen businesses in and around Google’s hometown. They obviously focused on hair salons and restaurants, and in every instance, the employee answering the phone immediately provided the business name.
Axios also pointed out that in the Google Duplex demo, there was no background noise on either call. No hair dryers, no dishes clinking together, nothing that you’d expect to hear at a hair salon or restaurant. In most of their test calls, Axios heard some variety of background noise that would indicate they’d connected with a real-life business.
Axios reached out to Google with questions. The tech demo was obvious very impressive, but if it wasn’t actually what Google said it was, that might tarnish the shine just a little bit. They asked for the name of either business called in the demo, offering a promise in writing not to publish the name of either to prevent unwanted attention. Google declined to provide either name.
They also asked if the demo calls had been edited in any way. Maybe they just cut off the full greeting where the business name was mentioned? It doesn’t seem likely based on how the greetings played out on the demo call, but best to give them the benefit of the doubt when asking. Their Google rep declined to answer but said she’d get right back to them with answers. That hasn’t happened yet. A second message including a member of Google’s communication team met with the same response.
Don’t get me wrong, I still think Google Duplex is going to be amazing whenever it’s actually ready for prime time. The demo does seem just a little bit fishy when you listen to it a little bit closer, but the idea is still definitely fantastic. Hopefully, Google can clear up what actually happened sooner rather than later.
Last Updated on May 17, 2018.