Google has revealed a major infusion of AI tech for its Workspace suite of apps, with some pretty smart sounding abilities coming to the likes of Gmail and Google Docs.
As Google puts it, these new features bring the 'power of generative AI' to Workspace and allow people to create content and collaborate more easily.
Writing an email in Gmail? That's going to be a snap with an AI assistant (hopefully), as you'll be able to note down quick bullet points of what you want the message to say, and then let the AI write the full body of the mail for you.
That's a pretty big step up from what you currently get in Gmail (smart compose suggestions on-the-fly, and those simple one-sentence autoreplies which appear when responding to a message).
It's a similar situation in Google Docs, where you can provide bullet point notes and have the AI fully flesh them out. The example Google highlights is writing a job description, and once the AI has completed the task, it's easy to modify the tone - and request something more formal, for example, or indeed whimsical.
Whatever you're composing, you can go back to the AI to edit and change the text (and it'll act as an editor with plentiful suggestions regarding text that you've written yourself, naturally).
These abilities will be coming to a "limited set of trusted testers" (in the US) to begin with, but will roll out to the public later in 2023. (That could be late in the year, for all we know, as Google doesn't mention anything more specific than that timing-wise).
Eventually, the idea is to bring AI not just to Gmail and Docs, but also to Sheets, Slides, Google Meet, and more. For example, presentations in Slides will leverage AI to automatically generate appropriate images, sound, and video, so this will be about more than just getting creative with words.
These AI abilities are to be rolled out not just to enterprises, but consumers too. The company also mentions users of Google One, which is an online storage locker - but one bolstered by extra features like a VPN (albeit a very limited VPN). So AI is going to be thrown into the mix there, too, in terms of advancing the value proposition.
The worry, as ever with AI, is that the tech is still rough around the edges, as Microsoft's efforts on this front with the new Bing (ChatGPT-powered bot) have clearly illustrated. The chatbot quickly went off the rails after its launch in an embarrassing manner for Microsoft, but it has been better behaved since being reined in.
Certainly when composing business emails, or other important correspondence, the human behind the keyboard enlisting the help of Google's AI will need to keep a close eye on the results.
Speaking of Microsoft, the firm has its "future of work with AI" event later this week, so we can likely expect similar abilities to be unveiled for Microsoft 365 imminently, in what is rapidly becoming something of an AI arms race between the two tech giants (round one was Bard versus Bing, of course).