“Duplex” is Google’s umbrella term for technologies that can handle tedious, multi-step tasks for you. The mobile version was the most well-known implementation of this technology, and Google is now shutting down Duplex on the Web.
Google Duplex was famously announced at I/O 2018 with the ability to make restaurant reservations for you. Mimicking a human when making calls, which included disclosures, first appeared on Pixel phones before expanding availability. At the next I/O conference, Google announced that it’s coming to the web to help get your tasks done, from buying movie tickets. Duplex in Chrome, with Assistant Branding, will ask for your preferences and then navigate through the theater’s buying site for you.
Google is now shutting down Duplex on the Web and describing it as “discontinued”. The company confirmed to TechCrunch and a notice to web partners says “no automation features enabled by Duplex on the Web will be supported after this date.” [December 2022]. “
Since announcing Duplex at I/O 2019, we’ve grown to support:
- Buy tickets: “Buy movie tickets for users on your website.”
- Help out to retail locations (2021): “Helping users with an optimized and automated payment experience on your website.”
- Food ordering for restaurant websites (2021): “Help users place food orders on your website.”
- Assistance in completing travel procedures for airline websitesHelp users check-in to their flight on your site. Android users will receive a notification from the Google Assistant offering to check-in for their flight. The user details will be pre-populated on your website’s check-in form using flight booking information from Gmail.
- Change password automatically (2022): “Automate changing site passwords with the Google Assistant.”
- Automated discount finder: “Automatically apply coupons to your website.”
Duplex worked by periodically training “against your location to enable the Google Assistant to perform certain actions.” Changing the password was a respectable ability.
Google shuts down Duplex on the Web citing user and developer feedback. It is also doing so to “focus fully on creating AI advancements in two-way audio technology that helps people so much every day.”
The implication is that Duplex on the Web wasn’t used as much and the audio version that handled phone calls was more popular. On Pixel phones, Duplex powers the popular Hold for Me and Direct My Call feature, which lets you tap instead of having to interact with an actual dial pad when you’re on the phone tree. Google also uses voice technology to check store hours and product inventory.
In the short term, this reprioritization of Duplex makes sense as there are still plenty of phone-only interactions. However, in the future everything will eventually have a web version and having an assistant able to handle these tasks will be very powerful.
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