Google bows to critics, now will tell people a robot is on the phone
After days of negative headlines following a demo of new robotic technology early this week, Internet giant Google bowed to critics late Thursday. It said it will let people know a robot is calling them on the phone.
At its I/O conference Tuesday, Google showed off Duplex, a new feature of the Google Assistant smartphone that will use a human-sounding robot to set up appointments at hair salons and restaurants. In the demo, the robot wasn’t identified as such, and sounded totally human, to the point of adding “ums” and “ands” into the conversation.
This led to critics saying that Duplex would be taking advantage of people by not informing them they were speaking to a robot. Google spokespeople had danced around the subject of whether the company would indeed inform the public, only saying it wanted to be “transparent.”
Now, Google says it will have “disclosure” on the reservation calls.
“We understand and value the discussion around Google Duplex,” Google said in a statement. “As we’ve said from the beginning, transparency in the technology is important. We are designing this feature with disclosure built-in, and we’ll make sure the system is appropriately identified. What we showed at I/O was an early technology demo, and we look forward to incorporating feedback as we develop this into a product.”
Google plans to test the technology in the summer.