Google is launching Duplex on the Web, a booking service that’s basically autofill on steroids. The tool is designed to let people more easily buy movie tickets online, the company said Thursday.
The service is available on Android phones. To use it, you’d ask the Assistant — Google’s digital helper software akin to Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri — to look up showtimes for a particular movie in your area. The software then opens up Google’s Chrome browser and finds the tickets.
For the tool, Google partnered with 70 movie theater and ticket companies, including AMC, Fandango and Odeon. Google announced the service in May at the company’s annual I/O developer conference. The search giant will eventually expand the booking system to include car rental reservations.
This version of Duplex is much tamer than last year’s debut, which freaked out audiences from the very moment Google CEO Sundar Pichai presented the demo. The artificial intelligence software is patterned after human speech, using verbal tics like “uh” and “um.” It speaks with the cadence of a real person, pausing before responding and elongating certain words as though it’s buying time to think.
At the time, the service was available only for booking restaurants and hair appointments. The demo immediately raised flags for AI experts, industry watchers and consumers, who worried about the ethics of creating robots that could fool people into thinking they were talking to other humans. Google later said it would build in disclosures so people would know they were talking to automated software.
Here’s how the new version, for ordering movie tickets, works: Once you’ve asked the Assistant for movie tickets, the software opens up a ticket website in Chrome and starts filling in fields. The system enters information in the form by using data culled from your calendar, Gmail inbox and Chrome autofill (like your credit card and login information).
Throughout the process, you see a progress bar, like you’d see if you were downloading a file. Whenever the system needs more information, like a price or seat selection, the process pauses and prompts you to make a selection. When it’s done, you tap to confirm the booking or payment.