Speak to me, robot: Startling Google Duplex demo raises endless concerns

A singular response

In the days after Google’ s ­­­­­­­­­startling demonstration of their very human-like  “Duplex” A.I. speech tech, the responses and concerns are rippling through the technosphere – and beyond. Reactions have ranged from wonder and amazement, to horror, according to one tech critic. Questions about the use and possible abuse of Duplex, which places AI very close to passing the Turing Test in our opinion, are building quickly. Should people be warned they are about to talk to a robot? Should the voice sound purposefully “synthetic,” like the device Stephen Hawking used? All good questions, and tough ones.

According to Bloomberg, ethical concerns and business opportunities are going to clash over this tech, which is still in development at Google; Duplex is not an app or program available to the public. Yet. But eventually, you can bet it will be. And down the road, people are wondering what else Duplex might be “too human” at: Writing books? Singing opera? Very convincing political robocalls? A bridge has been crossed, that’s for sure, but what kind of land we’re in now isn’t truly known, and it’s all thanks to a phone call to a hair salon. Hit the links below from more on the growing Duplex debate.

 Time for a Pixelwatch?

More google news now: Tech leaker Evan Blass, who has a solid track record of leaky things, is saying Google is likely to take aim at Apple (once again) with a new Smartwatch. Right now, Apple is dominating the segment – and, in truth, the entire watch industry as whole – and of course, Google would like a piece of that action. Blass says a reliable source tells him a Pixel-branded watch is in the works with a fall reveal at a Google hardware event.

And knowing Google, there will likely be a spread of models tailored for certain activities: Sports, leisure, maybe even kids. There are no specifics yet on watch features, prices, and so on, but it would make sense that Google would want in on the category, even if it’s not the hottest segment going right now. Because, like we’ve said before, eventually, pretty much anyone wearing a watch will be wearing a smartwatch.

Robot runaround

Yep, they’re back, even though they never really went away. Check out Boston Dynamics’s Atlas robot, going for a leisurely jog in the neighborhood, looking out for criminals, doing some log hopping, and just getting some exercise. The only thing missing? A robot dog! Oh, there he is, good boy. The jog-bot (it’s an upgraded “Atlas” humanoid model) continues Boston’s unbroken streak of creeping us the hell out while simultaneously fascinating us with the potential of these pre-Terminator machines. You know, just put some skin and simple muscles on it, add Google Duplex, and boom, it’s got your job. Welcome to the future.

We’ve got more news on our Facebook page and YouTube channel, and be sure to tune in to this week’s DT podcasts: Trends with Benefits (general tech shenanigans)  on Thursdays, and Between the Streams (movie and TV topics) every Friday.