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Google used its annual I/O developers congress to roll out some significant improvements to Google Assistant.

Now, remember that Google Assistant is just a voice interface to Google’s vast Artificial Intelligence (AI) cloud. In theory, there is no limit to what it can do – if Google can, OK Google can too.

And for the moment we are going to ignore issues of privacy lest we are sidetracked too much. Those issues will require a mix of legislation, self-regulation, and public pressure.  Although let me quote Sundar Pichai, Google’s CEO from his opening ceremony address.

Google I/O is its annual developer conference. It brings together more than 7,000 developers for a three-day event. I/O gives us a great chance to share some of Google’s latest innovations and show how they’re helping us solve problems for our users.

We’re at an important inflection point in computing, and it’s exciting to be driving technology forward. It’s clear that technology can be a positive force and improve the quality of life for billions of people around the world.

But it’s equally clear that we can’t just be wide-eyed about what we create. There are very real and important questions being raised about the impact of technology and the role it will play in our lives.

We know the path ahead needs to be navigated carefully and deliberately—and we feel a deep sense of responsibility to get this right. It’s in that spirit that we’re approaching our core mission.

This year Google Assistant is focusing on helping you to get things done.

Google Duplex leads the way with the first Google ‘chatbot’ capable of interacting with a human and getting something done.

Google Duplex (is that GoD or GooD?) will carry out tasks for you. Want to order a pizza, coffee, buy movie tickets or get a hairdresser’s appointment?

Just provide the date and time, and your Assistant will call the business to coordinate for you. If a business uses an online booking service, the Assistant will book through that. And if not, the Assistant will call the business on your behalf.

Google cautions that GoD needs to work in a ‘closed domain’ – where it understands the parameters.  “We want to be clear about the intent of the call, so businesses understand the context. We’ll be experimenting with the right approach over the coming months.”  It is a long way from a natural two-way conversation, but it is impressive. Listen to the example below – it is amazing.

MP3 file for Google Duplex

GadgetGuy’s take – looking forward to fully autonomous speech next year!

Google Assistant – 5,000 connected devices, one million commands, 30 countries and 80 languages – and that is just for 2018!

Natural language interaction is the ideal. It reminds me of the ‘Turing Test” developed in 1950. It is a test of a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behaviour equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human.