We know Google is a big company, but they may well have fired the biggest shot yet across the bow of both Apple and Amazon when it comes to the voice assistant race with “Duplex” a computer system which can make phone calls just like a human.

Demonstrated at their annual developer event, Duplex is the result of years of engineering across almost all Google Products, and the concept is quite simple, if you ask Google Assistant to do something, perhaps that can be done using a phone call, and why would you make the call when you just asked Google to do it.

The examples are pretty simple – what hours are you open? or can you make a booking for dinner at a restaurant?

Simple things in theory, but think about the complexity of those conversations. If they go to script, fine, but if the person on the other end is interrupted or can’t make the booking – what happens.

This is where a deep understanding of natural language comes in.

Google demonstrated the restaurant example a couple of times and both involved a lot more “back and forth” than you would expect in a script, but exactly as you’d expect in a normal human conversation.

The Duplex robot voice even threw a few ummms or aha’s into the chat.

Even more interesting, and likely the first place Duplex will be used, is the idea of the Opening hours of businesses.

We all Google a place and check the hours they’re open, but what about on Public Holidays? What are the hours? Using Duplex, Google could make a call to every business, ask the question “What hours are you open on Boxing day” and turn the answer into a firm bit of data in a search result.

There’s no guarantee this will be rolled out any time soon, but the demonstration is Google’s way of putting a line in the sand and saying – very clearly – our Voice Assistant is better than yours, and there’s no doubting that at all.