Starting next month, when you answer your phone, you might find a digital assistant on the other end of the line.
Google announced today (Oct. 9) that its new Pixel 3 phones would be the first to offer a new feature powered by its Duplex technology, which lets the Google Assistant make appointments and reservations over the phone. Details about the launch are sparse thus far, but Google said the feature would roll out on a city-by-city basis starting in November.
Duplex first appeared earlier this year in a demo at Google's annual developer conference. Thanks to Duplex, a human-sounding voice can make appointments on your behalf over the phone. What makes Duplex so interesting — and a little bit creepy — is that it's a very natural-sounding conversation, with Duplex even imitating the pauses and "ums" you'd get when talking to a real person. Google has shown off demos publicly, which feature the Google Assistant booking appointments at a hair salon and making reservations at a restaurant
The Pixel 3 will ship with another voice-powered feature that takes advantage of Google's prowess with speech recognition and natural conversations. Call Screen allows you to divert incoming phone calls to a voice-powered assistant, which will identify itself as such and ask the person on the other end of the line why they're calling. A real-time transcription will appear on the Pixel 3's screen.
Call Screen should be particularly handy for dealing with calls from unidentified numbers, which invariably turn out to be telemarketers. In fact, Google even has a button on the transcription screen that lets you mark calls as spam as soon as you see that the call is really just a telemarketer offering you a vacation deal or a lower interest rate.
While Pixel 3 phones will be the first to feature Call Screen when they go on sale Oct. 18, Google says that Call Screen will arrive on older Pixel phones next month.
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Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.