Hello, Inbox Zero! Gmail’s New AI Feature Could Save You 13 Hours a Week

Language and the Machine


Google wants you to let their algorithm read your emails for you, so you can get back to your “real” job.

What would you do if you could have 13 hours of your week back? Maybe you’d max out your ClassPass schedule, finish that book you’ve been reading for three weeks, or call your parents.

A new update to Google’s Gmail app, one of the world’s most popular email clients, could answer this question for its 900 million users. Smart Reply is now available for Android and iOS devices, helping people respond to emails without thinking much about it.

Smart Reply uses Google’s natural language processing algorithms—the same ones that check for malware/spam and correct your spelling—to read through the content of an email and determine three relevant responses. Given the volume of emails that pass through Google’s machine learning technology, it’s no surprise that they’re able to pull this off.

Upon being served up three responses, you can select one to send immediately, or opt to tailor what is suggested to make it bit more relevant or personal. The one caveat: If Google cannot determine any responses based on the content of the email, you’re on your own.

Like any machine learning software, the tool gets better the more you use it. As Google learns more about you and your writing style, it will begin to adapt Smart Reply to your personal preferences and writing style. Over time, it will even learn things like the nuances of your punctuation style and incorporate those into personalized automated responses.

The feature has been available in Inbox and Allo messenger since 2015, but mobile seems like a better opportunity to help users automate email responses while on the go.

Of course, if you’re trying your best to resist the robot revolution (or perhaps don’t want to go to the gym after all), you can always turn the feature off in your Gmail settings.

Bringing Smart Reply to smartphones reflects Google’s latest maneuver in the seemingly unending AI war between top tech players such as Amazon, Apple and even Facebook. The push by these companies has led to a talent scramble in which top machine learning technologists and researchers are being courted to the tune of $650 million (collectively) in the U.S. alone.

Time to go get that Ph.D. in machine learning?

Learn the latest trends, insights and best practices from the brightest minds in media and technology. Sign up for SMW Insider to watch full-length sessions from official Social Media Week conferences live and on-demand.

Newsletter Subscription

Get the latest insights, trends and best practices from today's leading industry voices.

Watch SMW Live

SMW Insider is a premium video platform that streams more than 180+ hours of talks, presentations, and interviews from leading industry experts.

Subscribe Now

Write for Us

Interested in sharing your ideas and insights with the world? Become a SMW News contributor and reach 300k readers each month.

Apply Here