New Zealand

Google Duplex Will Call Stores in New Zealand to Check Holiday Hours 

The Google Duplex voice AI will call stores to check their hours for New Zealand’s Labor Day as part of a new pilot program, Google announced in a blog post. The results of the automated calls will be used to update Google Maps and search results for the store.

AI Check-In

Google Duplex is a feature of Google Assistant that can act semi-independently, making calls on behalf of users to perform tasks such as making restaurant reservations and checking the opening time of a store. That’s what it will do on a larger scale for New Zealand’s Labor Day on October 28. A set of stores in the pilot group will get calls from Google Duplex. The AI will inquire of employees if the store will be closed or if it will have different hours during the holiday. Duplex will then relay those answers to Google’s larger database and people looking up the store’s hours through the Google search engine or on Google Maps will see the holiday store hours listed.

The point of the service is to help both consumers and businesses on the holiday. Potential shoppers won’t waste their time going to a store that might be closed, and the business can make sure that people know when they are open and can get there on time if they are closing early. Businesses don’t have to participate. Owners can opt-out of the new feature either on their Google Business page or by telling Google Duplex when it calls.

Duplex Doubles Down

The holiday hours feature is just a pilot program for now, but presumably could expand quickly to other cities and holidays if it goes well. It’s another in a long line of recent experiments by Google with Duplex and related ways of using Google Assistant. Starting with the idea of an AI that will call businesses and book appointments for a user without them having to be on the phone, Google now offers several variations on that theme for personal and business uses.

Last year, Google debuted a call screening feature that uses Google Assistant to hold and direct calls for people if they are busy or don’t want to answer. Users can send people to voice mail and even get transcripts of the calls from Google. More recently, rumors emerged that Google Assistant would stay on hold for callers using the new Pixel 4 phone, adding to the voice assistant’s abilities as a secretary.

Google Duplex is far from perfect as of yet. The company faced some heated backlash earlier this year when it was discovered that some of Google Duplex calls were actually being made by humans. According to Google, that was because of a lack of information about whether the restaurants take reservations. Having Google Duplex interview business owners about their opening hours could be the start for filling in knowledge gaps like that too.


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