Google recently revealed a project titled Google Duplex, a lifelike smart assistant that can make seamless calls for Google users. The reactions have ranged from astonishment and excitement to concern and fearfulness. The concept of Google Duplex is simple enough to understand: a very smart AI voice assistant that can understand the nuances of conversation, react appropriately, and help users get things done. Oh, and it sounds very human.
Here’s a clip from Google’s I/O Keynote, showcasing how Duplex works:
Amazon’s Alexa is currently the leading voice assistant, with Echo commanding around 72% of the smart speaker market. Alexa is very useful for a specific set of commands, such as shopping (on Amazon), controlling smart home devices, and playing Jeopardy. But Alexa certainly can’t do it all — she can’t perform most web searches (as she’s restricted to using Wikipedia), and absolutely can’t make a seamless phone call for you. Additionally, users have complained about Alexa’s difficulty understanding them, and sometimes Alexa herself is difficult for users to hear correctly. In other words, she can’t exactly pass as human, at least for the time being.
This doesn’t mean Alexa is inferior to the Google Assistant. Google Duplex’s announcement was just that — an announcement, as it may be years before the Google Assistant is able to make phone calls and sound convincingly human. With this in mind, Amazon is notoriously quiet about their research and development, and often announces a new product or service at the same time they launch it. While the pressure from Google to enhance Alexa’s capabilities is fierce, Amazon may have a few tricks up their sleeve that they aren’t revealing just yet.
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