SciTech

Google Assistant will book haircuts on its own soon – and teach kids to say 'please'

In this Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016, file photo, Google Home, right, sits on display near a Pixel phone following a product event, in San Francisco. In the name of convenience, Amazon and Walmart are pushing people to shop by just talking to a digital assistant. Shopping by voice means giving orders to the Alexa assistant on Amazon’s Echo speaker and other devices, even if your hands are tied up with dinner or dirty diapers.
In this Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016, file photo, Google Home, right, sits on display near a Pixel phone following a product event, in San Francisco. In the name of convenience, Amazon and Walmart are pushing people to shop by just talking to a digital assistant. Shopping by voice means giving orders to the Alexa assistant on Amazon’s Echo speaker and other devices, even if your hands are tied up with dinner or dirty diapers. AP

Google's answer to Siri and Alexa — the Google Assistant — will soon be able to call businesses, make appointments for you and help teach kids to say "please," according to a preview of the new technology.

And it'll do that while sounding more human than ever before.

At its annual developers conference on Tuesday, Google said the new technology is still in development and will be rolled out as "an experiment" in coming weeks.

The technology is being called "Google Duplex" and it will use artificial intelligence to make calls and take care of other tedious tasks.

Google showed off the tech in two demonstrations: scheduling a hair appointment and a restaurant reservation.

How does Google Assistant schedule a haircut?

In both demonstrations, an automated voice is realistic, almost human-sounding. It used pauses, "umms" and "mmm-hmms."

When a phone or Google Home user asked the Google Assistant to make a hair appointment, and gave it a day and block of time, the assistant responded with, "No problem. I'll make you an appointment and update you soon."

Then, the assistant, using Google Duplex artificial intelligence technology, made all the arrangements, interacting with a person at a business all on its own.

"Hi, I'm calling to book hair appointment for a client," the AI voice said in the demo and then negotiated a time and date for the appointment.

It even said "Mmm-hmm" when the employee asked it to hold.

How does Google Assistant make a dinner reservation?

In the second demonstration, the assistant was able to answer multiple, complicated questions to schedule a restaurant reservation, including asking about wait times.

Google said the Duplex technology is intended for "conducting natural conversations to carry out 'real world' tasks over the phone. The technology is directed towards completing specific tasks, such as scheduling certain types of appointments. For such tasks, the system makes the conversational experience as natural as possible, allowing people to speak normally, like they would to another person, without having to adapt to a machine."

How does Google Assistant teach children to say 'Pretty please?'

The Google Assistant also soon will be able to help teach your children better manners.

Google announced a new feature it called “Pretty Please” at the conference, which will make Google Home devices respond to politer phrasing, including “please” and “thank you.”

When “Pretty Please” is enabled, it will prompt a child to “say the magic word” when they give the assistant a command, according to CNET and TechCrunch.

And the assistant will use voice recognition to only require those manners of the people in the house you choose. During a brief demonstration on Tuesday, the assistant responded to kids with phrases including: “Thanks for saying please” and “Thanks for asking so nicely.”

The technology is "built to sound natural, to make the conversation experience comfortable," Google said.

"We really want to work hard to get this right," CEO Sundar Pichai said of Duplex during the conference.

You can listen to the assistant using Duplex here.

The Google Assistant is a virtual assistant developed by Google and released in 2016, available on mobile and smart home devices.

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