Google Unveils Duet AI Features and Teases Sidekick at Google I/O
New AI Tools for Google Workspace Suite Aim to Compete with Microsoft's Integration Efforts
In a bid to keep up with Microsoft’s swift integration of similar tools, Google made significant announcements regarding its AI features for the Workspace suite of apps. This latest initiative, now branded as Duet AI, was unveiled at the Google I/O conference. While the features are not yet widely available to the general public, the tech giant teased a novel functionality called “Sidekick.” This innovative tool has the capability to read, summarize, and provide answers to questions across various Google apps.
Duet AI encompasses a diverse range of generative AI tools designed for Google’s productivity apps. As previously reported, these tools include writing assistance in Docs and Gmail, image generation for Slides, automatic meeting summaries for Meet, and more. The latest update revealed at Google I/O is that writing assistance will soon be introduced to Gmail on mobile devices, under the name “Help me write,” effectively upgrading the existing Smart Compose feature. However, accessing these new tools requires signing up for Workspace Labs and joining a waitlist.
The positive news is that the previously exclusive waitlist is now open to everyone. The downside, however, is that the exact timeline for access remains unclear. Google merely states that it is expanding the availability of these services “to even more users and countries in the weeks ahead.” Nevertheless, The Verge obtained estimated release dates for the forthcoming features, as follows:
- Write in Gmail: Now available on mobile and web; accessible through Workspace Labs today.
- Gmail contextual responses: Rolling out to Workspace Labs by the end of this month.
- Generate images from text in Google Slides: Rolling out to Workspace Labs next month.
- Organize complex projects in Google Sheets: Rolling out to Workspace Labs next month.
- Intelligent classification in Google Sheets: Rolling out to Workspace Labs in the coming months.
- Custom backgrounds in Google Meet: Rolling out to Workspace Labs in the coming months.
- AI building blocks in Docs: Rolling out to Workspace Labs by the end of this month.
- Proofreading in Docs: Rolling out in preview to Workspace commercial users in the coming months.
While the unveiling of the “Help me write” AI assistant for Gmail’s mobile app is indeed intriguing, it is worth noting that Microsoft introduced a similar feature in April by integrating Bing into its SwiftKey keyboard app for iOS and Android. During a roundtable briefing with journalists prior to Google I/O, Aparna Pappu, Vice President of Workspace, highlighted the potential usefulness of such a tool on a platform where users have limited keyboard access. However, she also emphasized the importance of an AI partner that responds promptly and effectively.
Pappu explained, “Mobile creates a whole bunch of constraints. Sometimes you’re online, sometimes you’re offline. You really don’t want to fat finger things. 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.”
Adding a touch of whimsy to Gmail’s AI-generated responses, Google has introduced an “I’m feeling lucky” button. This feature might surprise users with haikus or even craft their replies in a pirate’s voice. Although it adds a playful element, the practicality of such a feature remains debatable.
In addition to these updates, Google made promises regarding the future of collaboration with AI, introducing Sidekick, a Workspace/Duet feature. Aparna Pappu described Sidekick as “the future of collaboration with AI” during the Google I/O conference, yet nospecific release date was provided to users.
Sidekick, showcased as a side panel within the Workspace suite, offers advanced document analysis capabilities. Google claims that Sidekick not only answers user queries about content but also suggests its own insights. For instance, if a user is writing a story, Sidekick might recommend generating images to complement the narrative. In another scenario, while composing an email about an upcoming potluck, Sidekick not only analyzes the email thread but also considers linked documents, such as a list of dishes being served, and offers suitable accompaniment suggestions.
Although the recent announcements demonstrate Google’s commitment to enhancing its productivity tools, it is important to note that these updates primarily build upon existing capabilities, rather than introducing groundbreaking features. The future of Google’s AI integration and collaboration ambitions appears to be promising; however, users will need to exercise patience as they await the full realization of these advancements.
As the competition between tech giants intensifies, Google’s efforts to keep pace with Microsoft’s tool integration signify a significant development in the field of AI-powered productivity apps. With Duet AI and the exciting potential of Sidekick, Google aims to offer users enhanced efficiency, improved writing assistance, and streamlined collaboration within the Workspace ecosystem.
While Google I/O provided a glimpse into the future of AI-enabled productivity, it is clear that there is still a wait ahead for these features to become widely accessible. Users can expect a gradual rollout of the new tools, with Workspace Labs serving as the entry point for eager adopters. In the coming weeks and months, Google plans to expand availability to more users and countries, ensuring that Duet AI becomes an integral part of the Google Workspace experience.
Overall, Google’s unveiling of Duet AI, the introduction of the “Help me write” AI assistant for Gmail mobile, and the tantalizing glimpse of Sidekick at Google I/O demonstrate the tech giant’s commitment to harnessing the power of AI to enhance productivity and collaboration. As users anticipate the arrival of these features, they can look forward to a more intelligent and efficient workspace powered by Google’s innovative AI technology.
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