Google Duplex’s hair-booking feature can help understaffed businesses.

More than two years after google’s I/O 2018 debut on stage, Google has quietly launched a hairdring appointment feature for its AI chat agent, Google Duplex. VentureBeat found that users of U.S.-supported devices can ask Google Assistant to call barbers, hair stylists and salons to make appointments instead of having to make their own phone calls.

An appointment for a hairdring is a use case that Google chose to highlight when it launched Duplex worldwide in May 2018. Clearly, this proved to be a technical challenge; after the unveiling, Google appeared to shelve hairdring appointments and instead launched restaurant appointments, which were launched in November 2018 for the owners of pixel-branded devices. In light of the outbreak, Duplex’s focus has shifted from appointments to store time and inventory inquiries, and has expanded beyond the U.S. to the U.S., Australia, Canada, Mexico, New Zealand and Spain, including Spanish.

Barber appointments may herald Duplex’s new application, although it’s unclear to what extent the development challenge has affected the latency of the feature. Just last month, Google detailed Hold for Me, a Duplex-driven service that will soon be available on Pixel devices. A Google spokesman confirmed by email that the feature has already been launched.

The new Duplex Barber Appointment feature, which can be used on any device with a Google Assistant app or access to Google Search or Maps, is similar to the existing restaurant appointment process. After clicking the “Request an appointment” button from a search or map, users can choose from three ways to get a hairdring: a men’s hairdring, a women’s hairdring, or a regular haird hairdring. After selecting one and entering your favorite appointment date, time, and time range (for example, 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.), the user will indicate whether they have been to the business and have the option to enter the hairstylist’s name and provide contact information such as name, phone number, and email address.

Duplex then calls the business and communicates with the receptionist at the other end of the line. Using natural language processing, assistants provide information such as treatment, date, time and name without interruption, while with delays, a range of accents, and unexpected problems.

Duplex explained at the beginning of the exchange that the phone is automatic and that it does not make calls late at night or early in the morning. In all countries, Duplex informs the other person that it is recording. If the business owner replies, “I don’t want to be recorded” or some variant, the phone is handed over to an unrecosted manual operator. According to Google, the operators also annotate the call logs used to train the Duplex algorithm.

Google received a lot of blows when it first launched the Duplex demo in 2018, as many people were unhappy that Google Assistant was so imitating humans. Part of the reason Duplex sounds so natural is that it taps Google’s sophisticated WaveNet audio processing neural network and intelligently inserts “voice ambiguity” that involuntarily emits “hmm” and “ah” during conversations. In June of that year, in response to criticism, Google promised that Duplex would introduce itself first during the call.

Google Duplex's hair-booking feature can help understaffed businesses.

Google Duplex's hair-booking feature can help understaffed businesses.

Google Duplex's hair-booking feature can help understaffed businesses.