Two major advances in autonomous technologies that rival human abilities

Google Duplex voice technology and Boston Dynamics' robot advances push the boundaries
May 12, 2018

The voice of singer John Legend, shown here at Google I/O, will be among six celebrity voices to come to Google Duplex voice technology and Google Assistant later this year, along with phones and home speakers. (credit: Google)

Google Duplex

Google’s new artificial-intelligence Google Duplex voice technology for natural conversations, introduced at the Google I/O event this past week, cleverly blurs the line between human and machine intelligence.

Here are two impressive examples of Duplex’s natural conversations on phone calls (using different voices):

Duplex scheduling a hair salon appointment:

Duplex calling a restaurant:

Google Duplex is designed* to make its voice on phone conversations sound natural** — “thanks to advances in understandinginteractingtiming, and speaking,” according to Google AI Blog. For example, it uses natural-sounding “hmm”s and “uh”s, and the appropriate latency (pause time) to match people’s expectations. “For example, after people say something simple, e.g., ’hello?,’ they expect an instant response.”

Google also said at its I/O developer conference that six new voices are coming to Google Duplex, including singer-songwriter-actor John Legend’s. Legend’s voice, among others, will also come to Google Assistant later this year, and will be included in phones and home speakers.

* “At the core of Duplex is a recurrent neural network (RNN) … built using [Google's] TensorFlow Extended (TFX).”

** To address “creepy” concerns right out of a Westworld show, a Google spokesperson provided an email statement to CNET: “We are designing this feature with disclosure built-in, and we’ll make sure the system is appropriately identified.”

Boston Dynamics

Boston Dynamics has announced two significant autonomous robot developments.

The dog-like SpotMini robot is now able to navigate a set path autonomously, as shown here (in addition to opening doors):

And the humanoid Atlas robot is now able to run and jump over objects: