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Tech demos lie to us all

As people who enjoy all things tech, it’s tough not to get excited when companies and developers hold major conferences. Besides providing information about how things are going (stuff we don’t really care all that much about), often times they unveil new, exciting gadgets for the very first time.

They do more than just put them on display, though. We get to see the new toys in action, oftentimes in a way that makes us decide we want them — nay, need them — in our lives as soon as possible.

No doubt the new stuff is cool, and many times they are every bit as useful as they appeared at first glance. But it should probably not come as much of a surprise that not all demos provide accurate representations of what, exactly, we are going to buy.

It is all just a show

We probably should have expected this, as the whole point of a demo is to promote the greatness of whatever it is that is being displayed. But still, it is kind of a sad realization that we cannot always trust what we are seeing.

Take, for instance, the really cool (or freaky, depending on your point of view) video that came out a couple weeks back that showed Google’s new AI, known as “Duplex,” calling to make an appointment at a hair salon and then a reservation at a restaurant.

It looked like a very impressive display of the power of Google’s AI. The idea that it could make a call and take care of the task without the person on the other end of the line realizing they were talking to artificial intelligence was an amazing step forward for the technology.

But, cynical observers and sleuths noticed that while the Google AI seemed to be legitimate, the other side of the conversation had some peculiarities. In neither instance did the answer include their name or that of the business, which was odd, while ambient noise — the kind you would likely hear in the background at a restaurant or hair salon — was nowhere to be found.

Now, that’s not to say either oddity means the calls were fake, as Google probably has the kind of technology that would help edit out noise to clean the clip up for show. But it isn’t a stretch to think something shady might have been going on.

When something can go wrong, it will

The truth is whether Google did it or not in this instance, fibbing a bit in the presentation would not really be against the norm. Keep in mind these are meant to be shows that instill confidence and provide an aura of wonder over something new.

Yet, even the best plans created by the most innovative companies can go awry, with tech demos not always going off without a hitch. While that too can be expected, the embarrassment is not something any company likes to put itself through.

Nevermind how bad it looks in front of the company’s employees and shareholders, seeing the hottest new gadget fail to work in a setting designed specifically to show it off is not a good look for anyone who was looking forward to buying one the moment they could.

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