Image for post
Image for post

Is Google a telco? Is Amazon? Does the term “telco” matter any more?

Google shed more light on Duplex and Call Screen this past week at its Made by Google event. Google added an incentive to purchasing the Pixel 3 by tying the availability of these services to Pixel owners. However, it’s not clear if this is because something is happening on the device itself or the conversation is being routed to some service first (or both). If it’s the latter, there’s probably some interesting handoffs happening between the phone app and Google’s services.

Call Screen erodes the benefit of having a voicemail subscription. If Google is handling all my calls, people can leave a message there. Maybe there’s some nuance that I’m missing. Also, who owns that recording? By calling a number that uses Call Screen, I’m I consenting to allow Google to use my voice to enhance its speech to text capabilities? Will they be storing my voice recording forever?

If Call Screen were to catch up and eventually be replicated by Apple or pushed out to all Android devices, it’d take the fun out of a service like Jolly Roger. This service is like a rodeo for call spammers — trying to engage them for as long as possible. Call Screen is much less emotional, just offering up a script and prompts.

With Duplex, I’m interested to see what happens during the call. Is the transcript displayed in real time? If the Duplexing fails, is there some notification to the user?

Real time voice calls are strange. They’re distracting, require focus, are sometimes fraught with voice quality issues or connectivity problems. You need to find a window when both caller and recipient are free. However, a lot of things can be explained much more quickly in a live call and decisions can be made much faster. What Call Screen can do is ensure that this is a discussion that really warrants a live call vs one that just needs a simple answer.

And what about checking to see if someone is available for a live call? “OK Google, get [contact] on the phone so I can talk to them about planning next week’s party?” Google Duplex could make the outbound call and Call Screen could then allow the user to accept it. If they don’t have Call Screen, then they’d hear the request.

What Google may become is a layer between human communication. As the intermediary, it could help us be kinder and more thoughtful. The flip side is that it might cause us to become more silo’d and lonely, each one of us an island with a sea of Google AI separating us. Facebook reminds us to wish each other happy birthday but it also fueled our fears and hatreds.

Independent daily thoughts on all things future, voice technologies and AI. More at

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store