The Google Duplex voice AI service can now book haircuts for clients, a service Google demonstrated when it announced Duplex in 2018. Duplex uses the Google Assistant AI to call barbers and salons, setting up appointments for their client. Until now, Duplex had been limited to making restaurant reservations or getting store information like opening times on behalf of users.
The haircut appointments work much the same as the existing restaurant option. There is a Request an Appointment button by qualifying businesses in the Google Maps and Google Search apps. When tapped, users can ask for men’s, women’s, or general haircut, and put their preferred date and time range. Once the user puts in contact info and any details like a particular barber they want, they simply tap the confirm button, and Duplex takes over. The AI calls the business, lets them know an AI is calling and carries out making the booking for the customer, sending them the confirmation once it is done.
Despite being at the center of the initial demo, Google Duplex didn’t offer haircut appointments when it first rolled out for Pixel devices in late 2018. Instead, it was used for restaurant reservations. That said, the semi-independence of the AI behind Duplex faced some criticism after it turned out some of Google Duplex calls were being made by humans. Google claimed that it was because of a lack of information about whether the restaurants take reservations. So far, that has not come up as an issue with the haircuts.
Google hasn’t made a big deal about the haircut addition to Duplex, not mentioning it at its event for the new Pixel phones at all. That’s likely a result of the ongoing COVID-19 health crisis limiting access to hairstylists in many areas. The pandemic lowered restaurant bookings too, of course, which is partly why Google started building up Duplex’s other features, including questions about inventory. When the AI calls a store, the clerk may get asked about whether they have certain items in stock, and how much is available. Google has been expanding the geographic reach of Duplex significantly this year as well after a New Zealand pilot. In April, Google added Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom to Duplex’s operations and is developing limited pilots elsewhere. Duplex also offers more options on the business side like allowing companies to opt-out of recordings and transferring them to the humans who also annotate the phone calls. The same Google Assistant-related tech also powers the new Hold for Me feature in the new Pixel phones. Hold for Me uses the voice assistant as a proxy for the user when they are on hold, listening for someone to pick up and letting the caller know, without them having to pay attention to the repetitive music.