Google brings AI chat to Gmail and Docs

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

Michael Short | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Google deepening its push into generative artificial intelligence, introducing features Tuesday that let users create text in Gmail and Docs using the company’s AI technology.

The company is testing its AI products and making them accessible to a limited number of Workspace users, including Gmail and Google’s productivity tools.

“Whether you’re a busy HR professional who needs to create custom job descriptions, or a parent drafting your child’s pirate-themed birthday party invitation, 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 type in a topic you want to write about and a draft will be generated for you instantly.”

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

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

Google has over 3 billion Workspace users. This also applies to consumers and businesses, who pay for subscriptions.

Google’s biggest rival in the market Microsoft 365, the productivity bundle that was called Office 365 until October 2022. Microsoft, a major investor in OpenAI, discusses AI and productivity software at an online event hosted on LinkedIn on Thursday.

A Google spokesperson told CNBC that the company is giving early access to the new features to consumers as well as some business and education users. The company has not said when it will broadly release the capabilities, nor has it said whether the additional features will be included in existing packages or at additional cost.

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

The company recently instituted a “code red” warning for employees to respond to ChatGPT. Last month, Google said it will add AI features to its dominant internet search engine. Separately on Tuesday, Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian said the company has begun testing a service for building business chatbots. The cloud business includes Workspace.

“We are so excited about the potential of Generative AI and the opportunities it will unlock,” Kurian wrote. Kurian said the technology will help people express themselves, enable developers to develop new applications and “change how companies… voters.”

WATCH: Google could have a second-mover advantage with its chatbot technology, says Big Technology’s Alex Kantrowitz

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