Is there anything more annoying than receiving a junk call? Well sure—mosquitoes come to mind, and being hit with a higher than expected tax bill is a major bummer. Still, spam calls rank right up there among life's many annoyances, and the situation only seems to be getting worse. Google aims to help, however, as it's built some anti-call spam technologies into its newly released Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL handsets.
What's interesting about Google's approach to identifying and blocking unwanted calls is that it's leverage artificial intelligence (AI) to fight this ongoing battle.
"Starting out in English in the US, Pixel 3’s on-device AI helps you screen phone calls and avoid spam calls. Imagine you’re at dinner with family or in a meeting at work and a call from an unknown caller comes in. Just tap on 'Screen call' to find out who's calling and why, as well as other information (as prompted by you)," Google explains.
When you do this, the Pixel 3 will provide a transcript of the caller's response. From there, you can decide to answer the call, tap on a quick reply, or mark the call as spam. "Processing the call details on-device means these experiences are fast, private to you, and use up less battery," Google says.
This is one of two AI features that's been added to Google Assistant. The other is an experimental feature powered by Duplex. You might recall that Google recently demonstrated its Duplex AI making calls to a restaurant and a hair saloon to book dinner reservations and a hair appointment, respectively. It sounded eerily human-like, prompting Google to promise that Duplex calls would identify as such, so as not to trick the person on the other end of the line. How it works out remains to be seen, but we'll find out soon—Duplex is headed to Pixel 3 handsets.
"As we develop new calling technologies, we believe it’s critical that we help people understand the context of the conversation. We’ll disclose to businesses receiving the call that they're speaking to an automated system, and we have developed controls to protect against spam and abuse, as well as the ability for a business to opt out of receiving calls. For Call Screen, we will also let the caller know that a screening service is being used," Google says.
We'll have to wait and see if it all works as advertised. One thing is for sure though, Google is wholly committed to infusing AI technologies into consumer devices.