Gmail’s Smart Reply is an example of what real AI will look like for frontline workers | Artificial intelligence

Google rolled out its feature—which uses artificial intelligence (AI) to scan received emails and suggest responses—to the Gmail app on iOS and Android back in May 2017 to help smartphone users avoid the need to type out full replies on their phones. Now, as Google defaults its 1.4 billion active accounts to the new version of Gmail, all users will have the option to select a Smart Reply on their desktop as well—and many already are. Smart Reply answers account for 10% of all emails sent on the platform, the Wall Street Journal reported.

By October, Smart Reply will become a default setting for all Gmail accounts, the report said.

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When a Gmail user receives an email, Smart Reply presents them with three responses to choose from, based on the content of the email they received. For example, if the received email says, “Congratulations on the offer, your contract is attached,” the Smart Reply responses might include “I accept the offer,” “I accept,” and “I am no longer interested in the position,” according to a screenshot in the Journal.

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All suggested replies are taken from a growing library of phrases that a Google bot identified as relevant after analyzing billions of Gmail messages, Ajit Varma, director of product management at Google, told the Journal. Rude responses tend to be excluded from the library of possible replies, he added. The phrase “Sent from my iPhone” was also identified as a popular response to emails that the engineering team had to take out before it became a suggested reply, he said.

Gmail will change the style and tone of the Smart Reply responses as a user chooses more of them, so that they will become more personalized over time, Varma told the Journal.

Google is also working on a Smart Compose feature, which will be able to finish user’s sentences as they type. This will become a default feature for all Gmail users by the end of September, Varma said in the report.

If you don’t want to use Smart Reply, you can opt out on the app, and will soon be able to do so on the desktop version as well, according to the Journal.

The rising use of Smart Reply demonstrates how AI and machine learning will continue to play a growing role in workplace tools for email and collaboration. Google is also reportedly working to extend Smart Reply to a variety of chat apps, including Slack, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Twitter direct messages. LinkedIn also added a smart reply feature for its messages in October 2017.

Earlier this year, Google also announced that its -powered Google Assistant will use a new technology called Duplex that allows it to make calls and schedule appointments for business users and consumers on behalf of the Google account holder.

The big takeaways for tech leaders:

  • 10% of all emails sent on Gmail are composed by AI through the Smart Reply feature.
  • Smart Reply will roll out to all 1.4 billion active Gmail users by default by October.

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Image: iStockphoto/AndreyPopov

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