Google shuts down Duplex on the Web, its attempt to bring AI to retail sites, and more

Google is shutting down Duplex on the Web, an AI-powered suite of services that navigates between sites to streamline the process of ordering food, buying movie tickets, and more. According to a note on Google’s support page, Google Web and any automation features enabled by it will no longer be supported as of this month.

“As we continue to improve the Duplex experience, we’re responding to feedback we’ve heard from users and developers about how we can improve it,” a Google spokesperson told TechCrunch via email, adding that Duplex on the Web partners have been notified to help them prepare for the shutdown. “By the end of this year, we will abandon Duplex on the Web and fully focus on making AI advances in Duplex voice technology that helps people so much every day.”

Google introduced Duplex on the Web, an outgrowth of Duplex technology for automating calls, during the 2019 Google I/O developer conference. To get started, he focused on a few narrow use cases, including opening a movie theater chain website to filling in all the necessary information on behalf of the user — Pausing to ask for choices such as seats. But Duplex on the Web later expanded to passwords, helping users automatically change passwords exposed in a data breach, as well as assisting with checkout for e-commerce retailers, flight check-in for airline websites and automatic discount lookup. .

The promise of Duplex on the Web was that you’d be able to issue a command to Google Assistant like “book me a car from Hertz” and have Duplex pull up the relevant web page and automatically fill in details like your name, car preferences, trip dates, and payment information (using information from Gmail and Chrome to fill in). automatic). But the rollout was slow at first, with only a limited number of sites and partners supporting specific use cases. Android was the only platform on which Duplex on the Web could be used, with the service coming to Chrome for Android as an “Assistant in Chrome” in late 2019.

Couples on the web

Duplex on the Web is used to book a car. Image credits: The Google

Was the technical improvement in the end too great for Google to justify keeping Duplex on the web? Can. As the Duplex on the Web support page explains, Duplex has used a special user agent that crawls sites several hours a day to periodically “train” against them, tuning AI models to understand how sites are designed and function from user perspectives. They were certainly resource-intensive, and could easily be broken if the site owners chose to prevent the crawler from indexing their content.

No doubt some brands were uncomfortable with the idea of ​​Google inserting itself between themselves and their customers either. But perhaps the straw that broke the camel’s back was the cutbacks on the Assistant side of Google’s business. According to a recent report in The Information, Google plans to invest less in developing Google Assistant for devices not made by Google, driven by the idea that other areas of the organization, such as hardware, will prove more profitable in the long run.

Time will tell if this is the case. But what is certain is that Duplex on the Web has joined the notorious hall of Google products hyped and then abandoned.

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