Google Dips Its Toes Into the AI Water With New ‘Smart Reply’ Feature for Mobile Email

Some call it “creepy.” Others call it “the future.” Whatever you want to call it, Google’s new email feature for its email app, Inbox, is likely to change the way we use email.

business email marketing content on mobile backgroundThe concept behind this new feature is simple: busy people receive many emails, and most of these emails (even the important ones) contribute to a cluttered inbox of half-written replies and unanswered questions. What if there was an easier way to respond to an email quickly and professionally?

This is where Google’s new Smart Reply feature comes into play — on Nov. 5, to be exact. TIME described Smart Reply as an algorithm that “uses machine learning to understand the context of a message and compose replies that make sense.”

This “machine learning” is something that many people already know as AI, or “artificial intelligence.” AI is based on a series of complex computer algorithms which allows the machine to “learn” new information, similar to how a person gains knowledge. The machine needs only to have basic information provided, and then — in theory — it should be able to make decisions by means of reasoning (i.e., its algorithms).

Artificial Intelligence is a highly controversial subject and most people believe that no computer has demonstrated true AI capabilities… But Google’s new Smart Reply seems to come pretty darn close.

Smart Reply looks like the predictive keyboard that smartphone users are already used to seeing; the key difference is that it suggests replies to emails before the user has even begun typing. The feature will continuously “learn” information about its owner, Mashable explained, and it will produce better suggestions as it “learns” which types of responses are appropriate for certain emails.

Some people may feel a bit disconcerted by Google’s new feature, but anyone familiar with SEO will agree that it’s quite similar to how Google’s search engine process works.

“I think that the smart reply feature will be successful technologically but do not think that adoption across the user base will be rampant,” says Jeff Lizik, Director Digital Marketing, C-leveled. “People are going to have a tough time turning email replies over to a machine until they get used to the technology and use it across multiple platforms. They have to learn to trust it and it has to become part of their routine. That won’t happen overnight. However, hours of time spent on email cut considerably. Constant checking of email throughout the day could cease. I can see productivity rising and time spent interacting with others increasing for sure.”