covid restaurant closure

Google Duplex chatbot to help consumers determine restaurant hours during Covid-19 pandemic

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According to Google’s support page for businesses, Google Duplex has been expanded to Australia, marking a new addition to the field of chatbot agencies in Australia. Google Duplex is a chatbot that people can use to make appointments, including restaurant reservations, over the phone. Google describes the process as follows:

“If the customer wants to book an appointment, the Assistant will confirm specific details like the customer’s preferred time, type of service, or size of party. Once this information is confirmed, the Assistant will try to book an appointment with your business by using an online booking partner (if available) or by calling your business using the automated voice-calling technology Duplex (calls are recorded for quality assurance).”

The news comes after Google announced last October that it was rolling out Duplex in New Zealand, a pilot program the goal of which was to confirm holiday hours for a number of small businesses. As Google explains on the updated support page:

“To ensure that Google shows accurate information about your business, like your business hours, Google may occasionally call your business to confirm information that you’ve not yet confirmed.

“These calls may use the automated voice-calling technology Duplex (calls are recorded for quality assurance) and may result in updates to your business listing on Google Search and Maps.”

Venture Beat reports that Google is looking to optimise Duplex during the coronavirus pandemic by using it to confirm which restaurants are still open for takeaway and delivery amid the crisis, which has forced restaurants around the world to shutter their doors.

“With so many disruptions to daily life, people are looking for more information about school or business closures,” Google CEO Sundar Pichai wrote a few weeks ago. “Based on data from governments and other authoritative sources, Google Search and Maps will now display if a place, like a school or local business, is temporarily closed. …We’re also using our artificial intelligence (AI) technology Duplex where possible to contact businesses to confirm their updated business hours, so we can reflect them accurately when people are looking on Search and Maps.”

Included in the Venture Beat article is an interesting—and sort of disturbing—example of what Duplex sounds like from the perspective of someone making a reservation at a restaurant. I suggest you have a listen. If you didn’t know any better you would absolutely think the bot was a human being.