In March, Google announced a bunch of AI features for its Workspace suite of apps in an effort to keep pace with Microsoft’s rapid integration of similar tools. At Google I/O, the company has new branding for this effort — Duet AI — but the features themselves are still not yet widely available to the general public. The company also teased a new feature called “Sidekick” that’s able to read, summarize, and answer questions on documents across different Google apps.
Duet AI covers a range of generative AI tools for Google’s productivity apps. As we detailed earlier this year, that includes writing assistance in Docs and Gmail, image generation for Slides, automatic meeting summaries for Meet, and more. But, at Google I/O, the only real news news is that writing assistance is also coming to Gmail on mobile where it will be branded as “Help me write” — an upgrade to Smart Compose. To actually get access to these new tools, though, you’ll need to sign up to Workspace Labs and join a waitlist.
The good news: previously this waitlist was private and now anyone can join. The bad: it’s not clear when people will get access. Google only says that it’s scaling the services “to even more users and countries in the weeks ahead,” but gave The Verge these estimates for when features will be available:
As mentioned above, the only solid news is the “Help me write” AI assistant on Gmail’s mobile app, which is definitely an interesting prospect. (Microsoft launched something similar in April by integrating Bing into its SwiftKey keyboard app for iOS and Android.) In a roundtable briefing with journalists prior to I/O, Workspace VP Aparna Pappu noted that it’s a potentially much more useful tool on a platform where you don’t have access to a full keyboard but that it also requires a more responsive AI partner.
“As you can imagine, mobile creates a whole bunch of constraints. Sometimes you’re online, sometimes you’re offline. You really don’t want to fat finger things,” said Pappu. “And so we expect people to use far shorter prompts when asking AI to help them write mobile, and we’ve had to tune our experience there to create the best possible output with the least possible input.”
One fun surprise on Gmail is an “I’m feeling lucky” button when using AI to generate responses. Pappu notes that sometimes it will write you a haiku, and other times, it’ll author your reply in a pirate voice. Whimsical? Sure. Useful? Arr, me matey, I’d be saying “nay.”
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