Google Workspace apps will soon include AI features. What that means


Workers who have ever dreaded writing a briefing for your boss, building a digital presentation of your ideas or sifting through long email threads to get caught up on the latest projects may soon have some assistance — in the form of artificial intelligence.

At least that’s what Google aims to do for workers who use its suite of enterprise software tools called Google Workspace, which includes Google Docs, Google Sheets and Gmail. The tech giant plans to integrate its office products with generative AI that can do things like generate an entire document or create images based on a prompt. Workers will be able access these capabilities by clicking a new wand icon that’ll appear in their apps.

Google plans to begin rolling out some features, starting with writing functions in Google Docs and Gmail, to select enterprise customers within the next couple of weeks, it said. It’s unclear when other features may become available.

Google comes in a far second to Microsoft Office when it comes to workplace productivity tools, according to market research firm Gartner. Open AI created a lot of buzz last year after rolling out its text-based generative AI tool ChatGPT, which Microsoft integrated into its search engine Bing this year. Since then, workers have been experimenting with whether ChatGPT can aid with work tasks. But experts advise people to be cautious when using the tech for work, as generative AI can produce content that’s factually incorrect, doesn’t make sense, is similar or almost identical to an unknown source, or, in the case of images, is visibly contorted.

To be sure, Google has integrated artificial intelligence — like the predictive text element in Gmail — into its software for years. But Thomas Kurian, CEO of Google Cloud, characterized the latest AI announcements as the next phase of development, in which humans will be supported by AI collaborators. Google said it will collect the interaction data customers input and receive to improve its tech for initial test customers.

Here are some of the ways workers may be able to use the new Workspace AI integrations, according to the information Google provided.

Writing documents and emails

Google’s generative AI will be able produce an entire draft based off a topic or set of bullet points for workers who need help getting words on the page, whether that’s in an email or a Google Doc.

A marketing manager might ask the tech to create a sales training plan for the next campaign, and Google Docs would generate one from scratch, for example. Workers can also highlight portions of text and ask Google’s AI to rewrite them in a specific tone. For example, they could use commands like “Make this more formal” or “Make this whimsical.” If you don’t like the first result, the “view another” button is expected to produce another one. And if you don’t know what tone you want to use, you will be able to click “I’m feeling lucky,” and Google will choose one for you.

The AI will be able to summarize email threads with a prompt like “Catch me up on this email conversation.” Or it could create a brief based on several Google documents or emails. Google expects it to also allow users to help prioritize emails.

Create images and presentations quickly

Workers may be able to soon use AI capabilities to cut down the time it takes to create a presentation in Google Slides.

Users are expected to be able to prompt the app, a competitor to Microsoft’s PowerPoint, to create images for a specific slide. Google says it also expects to allow workers to create AI-generated audio or video to embed in their slides, but it didn’t have more details to share.

Autofill some of your spreadsheets

When it comes to spreadsheets, workers are expected use AI to help complete filling them out faster or understand their data.

In Sheets, Google’s spreadsheet app, AI is expected to help generate formulas, offer analysis and insights, and categorize data. For example, in a spreadsheet that has a column for personalized messages to customers, the AI could automatically fill in the blanks for every customer with one prompt.

Make chats and meetings more productive

Google also wants to help workers make their communications with peers more productive and efficient.

On Google Meet, workers are expected to be able to automatically track meeting notes, create checklists for action items and summarize the meeting. The features are expansions from statements the company made last year when it announced transcriptions for Meet as well as summaries of conversations in its group chat platform, Spaces.

Google also expects to integrate AI into Google Chat to allow workers to automate some workflows. It didn’t have any more details to share about that future feature.

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