The most recent email app from the Gmail team, the Google launched Inbox touted the app’s ability to act almost like an assistant. Google is now making the app more like an aide than ever after a year.
A new feature called “Smart Reply” is what the company will be rolling out soon which uses artificial intelligence to suggest replies for your messages. According to the company, the feature will be coming to Inbox’s iOS and Android apps later this week.
A predictive text in keyboard apps is what the Smart Reply feature works a bit like, except that it predicts phrases you’re most likely to use when replying to messages. Basing on the message, the feature will show up to three short sentences and how people have responded to similar emails in the past.
Software engineer Bálint Miklós writes, “For those emails that only need a quick response, it can take care of the thinking and save precious time spent typing. And for those emails that require a bit more thought, it gives you a jump start so you can respond right away.”
Miklós, explains that the feature took quite a bit of engineering to get it working behind the scenes. In order to surface relevant responses in realtime, it makes use of machine learning techniques. Smart Replies should improve over time as people use the feature more as with other tools that use natural language technology. When they first began testing it, Miklós notes that, a commonly suggested reply was “I love you,” which is probably not appropriate for most work-related correspondence. (He promises that reply suggestions have been tweaked to be more Safe From Work.)
Privacy of course, is another very important factor in working with email. Miklós stressed that they adhere to the same rigorous user privacy standards that they’ve always held in the development of Smart Reply – in other words, no humans are reading your email. Basically, researchers have to get machine learning to work on a data set that they themselves cannot read, which is like trying to solve a puzzle with your eyes closed.
How much of an impact the feature will have on Inbox and how people respond to email, is something that is still too early to tell, however it offers an enticing look into how Google is using artificial intelligence to make some of the most ordinary tasks we do on a daily basis — like answering emails — a little easier.