Gmail has introduced a new “Help me write” feature powered by artificial intelligence to help users compose emails using voice commands. The feature is currently being tested on Android devices and allows users to speak out loud to draft new emails or reply to existing threads.
The “Help me write” feature can be activated by tapping a microphone icon that appears next to the compose button when creating a new email. Users can then speak naturally to describe the email content they wish to draft.
As per reports from publications that tested the feature, the AI assistant is able to comprehend requests like:
- “Help me write an email to John confirming our meeting at 10 AM tomorrow”
- “Reply and say I can join the video call but only for 30 minutes”
- “Draft an email to [email protected] for a refund request”
The AI will then generate a full email draft based on the voice input. Users can review the content and make edits before sending out the email.
Some key capabilities of the “Help me write” feature include:
- Understanding context from existing email threads to suggest relevant content
- Drafting basic email content based on descriptive voice input
- Following conversational flow to take additional voice inputs
- Allowing users to review and edit content before sending
The AI-powered writing assistant was first spotted in testing earlier this month. It is expected to roll out widely over the next few weeks to Gmail users on Android, as per a Google spokesperson.
There is no clarity yet on when it will be available for iOS users.
|Select Android users
|More Android users added
|All Gmail Android users
|Yet to be announced
|iPhone & iPad users
Technology Powering the Feature
The “Help me write” functionality is powered by a mixture of natural language processing and generative AI models trained by Google.
While the exact details are unclear, the system likely uses semantic analysis to comprehend voice inputs and suggest relevant email content. The generated text itself seems to be produced by an auto-regressive language model akin to GPT-3.
“This looks like another application of Google’s conversational AI efforts to simplify complex workflows through voice assistance,” said Martin Michaels, Technology Analyst at Emerging Tech Research. “The integration with Gmail builds on the voice-based document editing tool they previewed last year.”
Early User Reactions
Early user feedback on the smart compose feature is largely positive, though some limitations exist.
Reviewers highlight these pros and cons after testing the functionality:
- Significantly faster email drafting through voice
- Good comprehension of context and intent
- Conversational flow works well
- Struggles with complex language nuances
- Some inaccuracies in generated text
- Concerns over privacy of voice data
While the AI assistant speeds up common email scenarios, users may still need to review and edit parts of the drafts produced. Addressing accuracy issues and privacy concerns will also be key for wider adoption.
Impact on Email Productivity
Industry experts believe AI writing assistants have the potential to make a significant dent in workplace productivity.
Email continues to be the primary communication and collaboration channel across most businesses. However, drafting and responding to emails takes up sizable working hours.
As per estimates, over 100 billion work emails are sent and received globally per day currently. Employees spend over a quarter of their work time on email-related tasks.
“If widely adopted, AI assistants like Gmail’s ‘Help me write’ could reduce the average time spent on email by 20-30%. That is time employees can reallocate to focus on high value creative work,” explained Amanda Collins, Workplace Productivity Analyst at ThinkTank Consulting.
The launch of automated email drafting by the world’s largest business email platform also signals a broader uptick in AI adoption across enterprise software applications.
Several collaboration and productivity tools like Microsoft Teams, Salesforce, and Zendesk are unveiling AI capabilities to simplify workflows. Workplace AI use cases range from meeting summarization to customer query response suggestions.
While concerns exist around the maturity of AI assistants, the need for augmenting knowledge workers is driving companies to test and validate these technologies.
Gmail launching its own AI writing functionality comes shortly after rival Outlook announced a similar smart compose feature powered by Microsoft’s in-house conversational AI.
Outlook’s Play My Emails allows hands-free email dictation but seems to have narrower capabilities compared to Gmail’s more interactive assistant.
Independent startups like Clara and Respmail have also unveiled services that combine AI writing assistants with shared inboxes for teams. However, Gmail’s deep integration and massive 1.5 billion user base provide it more data to rapidly improve functionality.
Google itself offers AI writing within its enterprise Workspace suite through tools like Smart Canvas. The availability in consumer-grade Gmail exposes the capabilities to a much wider audience.
Expanding on its lead in AI-enabled consumer apps, Google seems poised to drive a broader lift in workplace productivity while gathering valuable data to advance its next-gen models.
With the initial rollout focused on Android, over 1 billion smartphone users globally will soon have access to AI-drafted emails through Gmail.
Rapid user feedback at this scale will help Google fine-tune functionality and address limitations before expanding to other platforms.
Industry analysts also expect integration of the smart compose capabilities deeper into other Gmail interfaces over time:
- Browser-based Gmail on desktops & laptops
- The Gmail mobile app on Apple iOS
- Third-party email clients that connect to Gmail
There are also possibilities for enhancements driven by Google’s advancing natural language AI research, such as:
- Support for dictating email content in languages besides English
- Contextual recommendations for adding file attachments
- Summarizing key highlights from long email threads
- Analyzing sent emails to suggest improvements
The launch underscores Google’s focus on using AI to reinvent ubiquitous productivity tools. With Gmail used by over 1.5 billion globally, smarter ways to communicate could have profound impacts on workplaces and even broader ripple effects across societies.
To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.