Google Rebrands AI Tools for Docs and Gmail as Duet AI – Its Answer to Microsoft’s Copilot

In March, Google announced a set of AI features for its Workspace suite of apps in an effort to keep pace with Microsoft’s rapid integration of similar tools. At Google I/O, the company has new branding for this effort — Duet AI — but the features aren’t yet widely available to the general public. The company also teased a new feature called “Sidekick” that will be able to read, summarize and answer questions in documents across different Google apps.

Duet AI includes a range of productivity AI tools for Google’s productivity apps. As we explained earlier this year, that includes writing assistance in Docs and Gmail, image creation for slides, automated meeting summaries for Meet, and more. But only true at Google I/O the news The news is that writing help is also coming to Gmail on mobile, where it will be branded as “Help Me Write” — an upgrade to Smart Compose. To actually get access to these new tools, you’ll need to sign up for Workspace Labs and join a waiting list.

The good news: Previously, this waiting list was private, and now, anyone can join. The bad: It’s not clear when people will get access. Google only says it’s scaling the service to “even more users and countries in the coming weeks,” but has given away edge These are estimates for when the features will be available:

  • Write in Gmail — now available on your phone in addition to the web. Available today in Workspace Labs.
  • Gmail contextual responses. Workspace will be rolling out to Labs by the end of the month.
  • Create images from text right in Google Slides. Rolling out to Workspace Labs next month.
  • Organize complex projects in Google Sheets. Rolling out to Workspace Labs next month.
  • Smart Classification in Google Sheets. Rolling out to Workspace Labs in the coming months.
  • Custom backgrounds in Google Meet. Rolling out to Workspace Labs in the coming months.
  • AI Building Blocks in Docs. Rolling out to Workspace Labs by the end of the month.
  • Proofreading in docs. Workspace is rolling out in preview to commercial users in the coming months.

Google’s AI writing assistant is available in Docs if you’re signed up to Workspace Labs.
Image: Google

As mentioned above, the only solid news is the “Help me write” AI assistant in Gmail’s mobile app, which is definitely an interesting prospect. (Microsoft launched something similar in April by integrating Bing into its SwiftKey keyboard app for iOS and Android.) In a roundtable briefing with journalists before I/O, Workspace VP Aparna Pappu noted that it’s the most useful tool on the platform. You don’t Has access to a full keyboard but needs a more responsive AI partner.

“As you can imagine, mobile creates a whole bunch of constraints. Sometimes you’re online, sometimes you’re offline. You don’t really want to fatten the finger stuff,” Pappu said. We had to tune our experience there to create the best possible output.”

A fun surprise in Gmail is the “I’m lucky” button that uses AI to generate responses. Pappu says that sometimes it writes you a haiku, and other times, it writes your answer in a pirate’s voice. Strange? Of course. Is it useful? Hey, matey, I say “no”.

Google also teased a new “Sidekick” feature, which will appear as a sidepanel in Workspace apps.
Image: Google

But, of course, Google had more to offer. In particular, a workspace/duet feature called Sidekick was described by Pappu at I/O as “the future of collaboration with AI” (though there’s no date on when it might be available to users.)

In appearance, it looks like a side panel that allows you to analyze the document you are looking at. Google promises to not only answer questions on the topic but also offer its own advice. So, for example, if you’re writing a story, you might suggest creating some pictures to illustrate it. In another example, a user is writing an email about an upcoming potluck. Sidekick not only analyzes the contents of an email chain, but also looks at linked documents – in this case, including the list of dishes served – and is able to suggest the best accompaniments.

All in all, it’s not a huge step forward for what Google is promising, just a way to tie current capabilities together. We’ll have to wait a little longer for the future, it seems.

Update Wednesday May 10, 10:56: Added more detail on Google Sidekick.

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