Google announced a series of upcoming generative artificial intelligence features for its various workspace applications, including Google Docs, Gmail, Sheets and Slides.
These include a new way to generate, summarize and brainstorm text using AI in Google Docs (similar to OpenAI's ChatGPT), the ability to generate full emails in Gmail based on a user's brief bullet point, As well as generating AI images, audio, and video in a slideshow to illustrate the presentation (similar to the capabilities of both Microsoft Designer powered by OpenAI's DALL-E and Canva powered by Stable Diffusion).
In a sign of Google's eagerness to catch up with rival Microsoft in the new AI race, while Google announced a slew of new features, only the first of these - the AI writing tool in Docs and Gmail - will be available to some "trusted testers" in the US this month. Google said these and other features will be available to the public later this year, but did not say when.
Here's a full list of the AI features that Google announced will appear in Workspace apps in the future:
Draft, reply, summarize, and prioritize your Gmail
Brainstorm, proofread, write, and rewrite in documents
Bring your creative ideas to life using the images, audio and video automatically generated in the slideshow
Gain insight and analysis from raw data through auto-filling, formula generation, and context sorting in the Sheet.
Generate a new background in Meet and capture the note
Enable the workflow in Chat to complete the task
Of all the new features, the AI writing and brainstorming tools in Docs and Gmail seem to have the most potential (see image above). The prompt "Write it for me" appeared, and the user entered a request: "Jobs for regional sales reps." The AI systems then complete their work specifications in seconds, allowing them to edit and refine the text.
Google elaborated on these potential features in its press release: "Whether you're a busy HR professional who needs to create customized job descriptions, or a parent drafting invitations for your child's pirate-themed birthday party, Workspace saves you the time and effort of writing the first edition. Just type in the topic you want to write about and a draft will be instantly generated for you. With your collaborative Al partners, you can continue to refine and edit, getting more advice as needed."
Similarly, users can use AI tools to rewrite or extend text. Google says you might simply list a few points about a work meeting. Google Docs can expand this into a "more refined summary" that users can manually specify in tone (e.g., whether it should be "more fantastical" or "formal"). In a video demonstration, Google showed how AI can be used to write personalized marketing messages for customers, turn bullet points into a full email, and summarize the contents of a long email chain in Gmail.
It's worth noting that Microsoft is rumored to be incorporating similar features into its suite of Office apps, including Word, Teams and Outlook. Microsoft's new Bing this year upset Google, whose chief executive, Satya Nadella, has described AI-assisted search as a new model that could knock Google off its perch. But the two companies also appear to be competing in productivity software. Microsoft has scheduled an event to detail its plans for the "future of Working with AI" on March 16.
Of course, the rush to launch AI products has its dangers. AI text generators are notoriously unreliable, often confidently fabricating false information. The flaws could cause major problems as Google integrates the technology into its enterprise software. IT House notes that in today's press release, Google offers a standard disclaimer: "Sometimes AI goes wrong, sometimes it pleases you with something outside the mainstream, and a lot of the time, it needs guidance."
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