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Google Duplex learns to make calls in Spanish, debuts in Spain

Launching today in Spain, the Spanish-speaking version of Google's AI chat algorithm can call businesses to inquire about store hours during the pandemic.

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CNET's Richard Nieva on the phone with Google Duplex.

James Martin/CNET

A Spanish-speaking version of Google Duplex, the AI chat algorithm that can call businesses on your behalf, is launching in Spain Thursday, Google tells CNET. Initially pitched as a way for the Google Assistant to call restaurants and book reservations on your behalf, the service will be used in Spain for inquiring about store hours during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

"We rolled out Duplex in Spain specifically for only confirming store hours only during the health situation," a Google spokesperson said. "At this time, this does not include making restaurant reservations or any other use cases for Duplex."

It's been a relatively quiet year for Duplex after the initial launch announcement left some rattled by the algorithm's eerie ability to mimic human speech patterns, pauses and mannerisms. Google has since worked to make the service a little less unsettling, including a promise that it'll always disclose the fact that it isn't an actual person to whoever it's speaking to. The company also unveiled Duplex for Web, which promises to help users zip through things like booking a car rental online.

Last month, Google and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai wrote a blog post detailing how Google was using Duplex to call businesses and inquire about their hours as part of an effort to keep Google's listings accurate during the pandemic.

The rollout in Spain follows a recent Duplex debut in the UK, Canada and Australia. Google didn't have anything to share on whether any other regions are up next.