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Possible future uses of Google Duplex

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I was thinking the other day about all the possible "verticals" to which Google could apply their Duplex phone calling feature. The number of possible scenarios seems endless:

* Let people know that you will be late to a meeting (in case they don't check their text messages or email).

* Conduct over-the-phone surveys.

* Automated surveys for science (this one was suggested by cocodilux on another forum).

* Cancel a service that you no longer use (but get bills for anyways, because you have it set on auto-pay).

* Haggle with a group of people on when's the best time to meet up for group work (the bot would call everyone, ask about availability, until the time is worked out). This is basically what the company X.AI is working on, except they do it with text.

* Call and remind people about something. For example, reminding elderly people who prefer to use the phone that they should take their medicine.

* Call and ask people for information you are too embarrassed to ask (maybe Google has a list of 10 types of embarrassing conversations it can handle for you).

* Apologize on your behalf (maybe there are 10 standard apology conversations). Sincere apologies should probably be personally delivered; but there may be some cases where automating the process is acceptable.

* Contact a bunch of places to see if they found a lost item (e.g. you could have Google contact the last 5 places you visited; and it would have records of where you were, based on the GPS signal).

* Call and ask if a store has a particular item in stock, that you want to buy it right then.

Perhaps training the system to use webpages will have an even bigger impact, as so many services and businesses are online these days. If you can just ask to get things done in natural language, Assistant will go and use an API when it can -- and if it can't, it will just use the user interface on a web-browser. So, you could say, "Cancel my subscription to X" and it would maybe go to the website, and use the mouse and keyboard, enter your information, and then cancel it for you. As the complexity of things it could do grows, you could issue commands like, "Go find a list of all the people who attended that seminar, and send them an email that I am greateful that they came."

Incidentally, a couple years ago, right after I wrote a post on the future of computers using web browsers to automate tasks (I believe Yuli Ban posted it here on this forum), coincidentally OpenAI started a project to do that very thing. Andrej Karpathy was behind it. He now is the head of AI at TESLA. The other day he wrote a Tweet:


Duplexes talking to duplexes would be an amusing use of existing (human) interfaces but by AIs. Just like autonomous cars use existing roads/signs for humans, or how our "world of bits" AI at OpenAI used simulated keyboard/mouse events to interact with web pages. Very amusing.

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Salesforce's Richard Socher says the tech will become a lot more common in 2 to 5 years:


Richard Socher, chief scientist at Salesforce, told CNBC that it was impressive how Google was able to pull together multiple AI efforts into one demonstration. It was a glimpse of the future of AI in the real world, even though it ties together several research innovations that have emerged in recent years, he said.

"In the next two to five [years] I can very well see this becoming much more prevalent," Socher said, adding that he's personally keen to bring similar technologies to big businesses.

I could see that happening, but maybe not on the phone: the way maybe we should really think of this technology is that it is about the computer initiating the conversation. Till now, virtual assistants always work by waiting for you to start the conversation, by asking a question -- but what if the computer can start the converation? That opens up a world of possibilities. Among other things, it would be a good way for the computer to let people know some of the ways it can assist.

Imagine when you wake up, you are greeted with Google Assistant, saying, "There is an accident on the freeway this morning. You should probably take a different route in to work." Or maybe, "You got some important emails yesterday that you haven't yet read about your upcoming trip. Would you like me to read them to you?"
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