Google’s “Smart Reply” Will Generate Responses to Your Email Automatically

Kimberly Burghart November 9, 2015

It really is the bane of modern existence: answering emails. No matter how many pile up, there always seems to be more flooding in. The fact that we need tips and tricks like “Inbox Zero” highlights just how bad the problem has become. But what if your inbox was smart enough to automatically compose responses to emails on its own? Well, Google is working on just that! While the project is still in the early stages, Google’s engineers have figured out a way to have your inbox automatically answer certain emails. This feature does not answer all emails– only those it deems to require a brief response. They’ll be rolling this feature out to users of Google Inbox this week, so let’s delve a little deeper into what the feature will look like and how it could help you be more productive.

“Deep learning” within your inbox

So, you’re probably wondering: how has Google achieved the functionality to answer emails for you? Basically, Google created two neural networks– one that reads the incoming email and a second to generate a response to the email. Unlike other response generating systems, these neural networks are not based on a series of programmer-generated rules. Instead, they involve machine-learned systems that capture different situations and tones to formulate appropriate responses. It’s also important to note that there will be no humans reading your email. The neural networks are able to generate these smart replies on their own. This should quell some users concerns about the privacy implications of having their emails read and automatically responded to.  

Currently, the Smart Reply feature will only offer email replies consisting of a few words. As the technology progresses, however, this feature will surely be expanded to generate larger responses. It will be interesting to monitor exactly where Google takes this technology.

The impact on business email productivity

With Google’s recent release of Inbox, it’s clear they are trying to change the way people do email. With the functionality to filter and group messages as well as to prioritize the most important messages, Google has made the enormously time-consuming activity of handling your email slightly better. Smart Replies also make it easier to respond to emails from a mobile device, where typing can sometimes be difficult. All these features make it easier to get more done– especially in the modern workplace where working-on-the-go is a necessity.

Google vs. Microsoft at work

The development of technology like Inbox and automated email responses could have enormous consequences on the email landscape in the workplace. Microsoft has been the primary player within the business work environment. Google, though, with its range of apps, has been making headway into Microsoft’s market share. A recent study found 29% of administrators say that Google is now a core part of their infrastructure.

“Smart Reply” is just the beginning

Google’s announcement, while exciting in itself, likely represents only the beginning of a path toward more automated, efficient email. Perhaps one day, the task of dealing with our incoming emails will feel like less of a hassle. With email piling up day after day, and more people needing to make quick responses from their mobile devices, developments like “Smart Reply” may have a positive impact on employee productivity.

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