Google's controversial human sounding AI is being tested for call centres

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Alphabet Inc.'s Google (GOOGL) product called Google Duplex, an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered assistant capable of speaking like a human, is appearing awesome to some and scary to others.

Google is reported to have at least one potential customer, a large insurance company, which wishes to use Google Duplex in its call-center operations. Duplex can call them for you so you don't have to negotiate or be put on hold. Citing a person familiar with Google's plans, the site reports that Google is in conversation with an unnamed large insurance company to integrate the conversational AI in handling customer service calls. Google is "currently focused on consumer use cases" and categorically notes that it's not "testing Duplex with any enterprise clients".

Now a company is reportedly looking to use Duplex the other way around: on the behalf of the businesses to talk to people.

Google emphasized that it is "taking a slow and measured approach" with Duplex - likely due to the initial backlash - and reiterated the three limited domains that the company has so far announced. "We're now focused on consumer use cases for the Duplex technology where we can help people get things done, rather than applying it to potential enterprise use cases". With the help of Duplex, call centers will be able to replace some of the work done by humans.

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While Google's statement indicates that it is more concerned with personal voice assistant applications right now, it does not rule out pursuing enterprise customers in the future.

This report comes during a time when the cloud-based customer call-center industry is increasingly growing one that raked in $6.8 billion past year with no signs of slowing down.

Google's promise that its current focus is on restaurant reservations may be a comfort to call-centre employees, but it's hard not to imagine the company taking an interest in the sector.

Google, to be sure, has already retooled the way Duplex interacts on calls just a bit since showing it off at I/O. The primary critique is that even in a call center setting customers would be unaware they are talking to a machine and feel subsequently deceived. In fact, ethical concerns have apparently slowed down work on the product.

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