Once upon a time, robots were the stuff of sc-fi movies and graphic novels. For most, this conjures up an image of a dalek-like helper with an automated voice who, in our imagination, could one day help with the washing up. Nowadays, this has evolved into a more virtual and smarter concept.
As technology advances so does AI, its capabilities and our expectations of it. Developers at Google have created a device that can understand orders, perform tasks intelligently and professionally, understand complex language of the ordinary human and know how to respond to it. To date, we have seen examples of this through technologies such as Siri VI and Google Home.
On May 8, 2018 Google levelled up and launched Google Duplex, a smart assistant, the likes of which have never been seen before.
What is Google Assistant?
Google Assistant is Google’s voice-controlled smart assistant. The technology is marketed as an application that can save you time and make your life easier, by assisting with day-to-day tasks. Google Duplex 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.
What Makes it Different?
Google Assistant has the below differentiators setting it aside from existing voice-controlled AI technologies:
- Google Assistant Multiple Actions means that it can handle multiple requests at once, something that other AI-powered assistants have yet to master
- The assistant can understand when you are speaking to it or when you are speaking to someone else around you due to its ability to understand the nuances of the conversation
This doesn’t mean to say that there is no competition. While Google’s AI-powered, conversational capabilities such as these have never been seen before, Amazon Alexa (released in 2014) is compatible with over 12,000 devices while Google Assistant only 5000.
Image Credit: Google.com
The Future of Smart Technology
At Bravo, technology is a passion of ours and we love learning about new smart solutions. We asked the team to share their thoughts on Google Assistant and while some of the team like the idea of a smart assistant to help with their life admin, there was some apprehension around privacy.
Gamze says, “The main aim of Google Assistant is to enter your private life in order to help make your life much easier, which for me raises privacy concerns. The assistant will need to grab as much information as possible from my personal data, day-to-day activities, documents and much more to become more powerful, faster and ultimately “smarter”. It is simply not useful without me sharing my personal information with it. Hence, this raises a lot of concerns; To what extent does Google Assistant have access to my stored information? What if my information is used for advertising purposes? Is it heavily secured or could it be hacked? Will my data be sold?”
Mer echo’s these sentiments with concerns around data management and the need for full disclosure, “There is an early indicator however that transparency is not a priority and that concerns the subject of DISCLOSURE. The fact is that you don’t know whether you’re speaking to a human or robot, Google Assistant does not disclose itself to you. And that, in my opinion, is really dangerous – there are likely to be a range of use cases for bad players. Couple this with the AI-infused natural language processing, whereby you have Google Assistant reflecting human intonation and speech, the “umms,” “eerrrs” and “ahhhs” for example and the end user is even more readily deceived”.
This is more true than ever now, in the wake of GDPR, where consent means offering users choice and control. With regards to data, as we mentioned on our previous blogpost, the GDPR defines consent as “any freely given, specific, informed and unambiguous indication of the data subject’s wishes by which he or she, by a statement or by a clear affirmative action, signifies agreement to the processing of personal data relating to him or her”.
However, Google is claiming to care about clarity and transparency and a Google spokesperson was quoted in the Financial Express saying, “We understand and value the discussion around Google Duplex, as we have said from the beginning, transparency in the technology is important”.
“We are designing this feature with disclosure built-in, and we will make sure the system is appropriately identified. What we showed at I/O was an early technology demo, and we look forward to incorporating feedback as we develop this into a product,” the spokesperson added.
So What’s Next ?
At the moment, Google can follow instructions but what if Google got smarter than this and started to make decisions for us? For now, we can book hair appointments and get simple tasks done but will we be able to send Google Assistant to work for us in the future?
As Katie said, ”For me to actually bother to use Google Assistant it would have to be smart enough to carry out tasks that I see as a real hardship. For example, my car registration is currently three weeks overdue, if Google could take care of that? Absolutely – sign me up! My DEWA bill is the bane of my life – can Google pay it? Yes please! I also could really do with finding the cheapest way to get from Dubai to Scotland over the summer but I can’t face trawling through all the compare websites – can I make Google do it?”
And so, we’ve reached a crossroads…on one hand we have technology advancing at an exponential pace and on the other, we have a more aware, discerning audience with real concerns about data-privacy and cyber security. Do regulations such as GDPR make it harder for companies to be free to invent new technologies by imposing all these regulations? If Google can find the careful balance between creating a smart, truly useful product and at the same time genuinely addressing its users concerns, we believe that will be the key to success. What do you think? Send us your thoughts on firstname.lastname@example.org
Featured Image Credit: 9to5google.com