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Google's New Virtual Assistant Will Literally Book A Pediatrician Appointment For You

by Alana Romain

I'll admit that I was already kind of a hot mess before I had kids, but motherhood? That just took it to a whole other level. Having tiny people who constantly require clean clothes and healthy meals and wiped bums takes up a lot of time and mental energy, and that means that there are a lot of things I just don't get to. And while I'm pretty certain the only thing that could really help me out at this point would be a fairy godmother, Google CEO Sundar Pichai recently announced that Google Assistant will soon be able to make calls on a user's behalf — real, actual, sounds-like-a-person, calls — and it sounds like a total #momlife game-changer.

Pichai made the announcement earlier this month at the Google I/O 2018 developer conference in California, according to The Verge, and to illustrate just how big a deal this could actually be, he played back a recording of Google Assistant making a call to a hair salon to book an appointment. And while the idea of asking my Google Home to go book me a cut and color currently seems like a total disaster waiting to happen, the actual phone call was incredibly impressive. Not only did the assistant sound completely life-like, seemingly fooling the salon receptionist into thinking she was talking to a real person, it was able to respond when the originally-requested time slot wasn't available, and knew what to say when the salon asked it to specify what and who the appointment was for.

The new technology is called Google Duplex, and it's something Pichai says has been in the works for years. But aside from just being an AI breakthrough, he explained to the I/O 2018 crowd that the goal, first and foremost, was to make users lives easier:

As I said earlier, our vision for the assistant was to help you get things done. It turns out, a big part of getting things done is making a phone call. You may want to get an oil change scheduled, maybe call a plumber in the middle of the week, or even schedule a haircut appointment.

Though he was speaking to a room full of developers, Pichai must have had hot mess moms in mind, because, yes, I do need to do all of those things (except for the plumber, but I am just one flushed toy away from that at all times). I also have to make my son a doctor's appointment, and confirm another appointment for my daughter, but honestly, I barely have enough free quiet time to pee and eat. I would be more than happy to pass these tasks off to Google Duplex.

The best part though, is that, from the sounds of it, passing those tasks off might actually soon be a possibility. In the example phone call to the salon, the user's request was, "make me a haircut appointment on Tuesday morning anytime between 10 and 12." And then, well, that's exactly what Google Assistant did — no human intervention required.

Now, this might not exactly be entirely life-changing if you're, say, Kim Kardashian, and having help with the crazy demands of life is just a given. But if, like me, you are a little bit afraid to even check your voicemail, because it means you'll have to sit through a million messages reminding you of all the things you are behind on, before having to actually go through the misery of calling everyone back (I mean, can't we just text each other and call it a day?), this fancy new AI Google Assistant could be a huge help. Why yes, Google, I would like you to confirm my dentist appointment, and then maybe order me some lunch while you're at it. (If only it could fold my laundry, too.)

Google Duplex will reportedly be available starting in July, but according to VoiceBot, it unfortunately might not be available in all states due to "All Party" consent laws. That's because Google Duplex would need to record the call in order for the technology to function, but in states like California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, and Illinois, among others, "all parties to the communication must grant permission" before a call can be legally recorded. In a statement to Business Insider though, a Google spokesperson said that Duplex developers will "make sure the system is appropriately identified" and that they are "designing this feature with disclosure built-in," to ensure that there is no confusion about whether or not a person is calling, so perhaps part of that disclosure will involve asking for permission to record?

Though the details on Google Duplex's release or legality might still be a bit murky, I can't help but hope that it ends up being fantastic and that it will be ushering in a new era where I will never have to book anything over the phone ever again (or, let's be honest, just return or make any calls in general). Perhaps one day, when my kids are older and are able to get themselves a snack or pee without having me there as a witness, sitting down to make a phone call will be no big deal. But right now, booking appointments is definitely one task I could do without, and I'd be more than happy to let Google Assistant take over that responsibility.