Google will shut down its Duplex on the Web service. Duplex on the Web was an offshoot of Google’s call-automating technology, Duplex, intended to help people progress through common online forms — for example, ordering food or booking theatre tickets.
Per a note added to the Duplex on the Web support page, Google has “deprecated” the service and it will no longer be supported as of December 2022. “Any automation features enabled by Duplex on the Web will no longer be supported after this date,” reads the notice.
A Google spokesperson offered some additional detail to TechCrunch in a statement:
“As we continue to improve the Duplex experience, we’re responding to the feedback we’ve heard from users and developers about how to make it even better. By the end of this year, we’ll turn down Duplex on the Web and fully focus on making AI advancements to the Duplex voice technology that helps people most every day.”
The spokesperson also said that Google notified Duplex on the Web partners to help prepare for the shutdown.
Google first introduced Duplex on the Web at its 2019 I/O developer conference. Initially, the service could handle a few narrow use cases, like booking movie tickets. However, Google expanded Duplex on the Web over time, adding features like helping users automatically change passwords that were exposed in a data breach, assistance with checking out from online retailers, flight check-ins, and automatically finding discounts.
The core promise of Duplex on the Web was that people would be able to issue a command to Google Assistant, and Duplex would go ahead and do it. For example, someone could say, “book me a car from Hertz,” and Duplex would pull up the relevant webpage and fill in the user’s details like name, car preferences, tip dates, and payment information.
It’s not entirely clear why Google chose to shutter Duplex on the Web. TechCrunch suggests it could have been too difficult to maintain since it relies on a special user agent crawling websites for several hours each day to ‘train’ Duplex against them. That process could be easily tripped up if a site chose to block the crawler. Likely, Google’s cuts to the Assistant side of the business likely had a factor too. For example, a report from The Information said Google plans to reduce investments in Assistant for devices not made by Google as it pivots to a focus on hardware.
Regardless of the reason, it’s a bummer to see Google shutter Duplex on the Web. It was a really neat idea, and it’s a shame we won’t see more come from it.