Google brings AI chat to Gmail and Docs

Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian speaks at the Google Cloud Next event on April 9, 2019 in San Francisco.

Michael Kurz | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Google is deepening its foray into generative artificial intelligence, rolling out features on Tuesday that will allow users to create text in Gmail and Docs using the company’s AI technology.

The company is testing the AI ​​products and making them available to a limited number of Workspace users, which include Gmail and Google’s productivity tools.

“Whether you’re a busy HR professional who needs to create custom job descriptions or a parent designing the invitation for your child’s pirate birthday party, Workspace saves you the time and effort of writing that first draft,” Johanna Voolich Wright, Vice President of Product for Google Workspace, wrote in a blog post. “Just enter a topic you want to write about and a draft will be created for you immediately.”

Generative AI was the hottest topic in tech this year after OpenAI, a San Francisco startup, unveiled chatbot ChatGPT in November and watched it quickly go viral. ChatGPT allows users to ask a question or make a request and responds with answers that are surprisingly sophisticated and creative. The leading technology companies are now rushing to build similar capabilities into their own products.

With Google’s test, a user can go to a text field in an email and type “Draft email to team.” The application spits out a three-part thank you note that the user can edit, elaborate, or turn into a bulleted list. The user can also ask the program to try again.

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Google has more than 3 billion users of Workspace. This includes consumers and businesses that pay for subscriptions.

Google’s biggest competitor in the market is Microsoft 365, the productivity suite that was called Office 365 until October 2022. Microsoft, a major investor in OpenAI, will be speaking about AI and productivity software at an online event on LinkedIn on Thursday.

A Google spokesperson told CNBC that the company is giving consumers, as well as some business and education users, early access to the new features. The company didn’t say when it will be releasing the features broadly, nor did it say if the additional features will be included in existing packages or incur additional costs.

Google said it plans to bring additional AI capabilities to Workspace later this year, including formula generation in Sheets, auto-generated images in Slides, and notes in Meet.

The company recently set up a “Code Red” alert for employees to respond to ChatGPT. Last month, Google announced that it would add AI capabilities to its dominant internet search engine. Separately, Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian said the company had started testing a service for building chatbots for businesses. The cloud business includes Workspace.

“We are so excited about the potential of generative AI and the possibilities it will open up,” Kurian wrote. Kurian said the technology will help people express themselves, empower developers with new applications, and change “how companies… are their constituent parts.”

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