Google Inbox, Google’s new-age e-mail client that lives alongside Gmail, can now respond to messages for you. The feature is called “Smart Reply,” and for e-mails that only need a quick response, Inbox will generate three short replies you can pick from and send.
The feature is a lot like the canned quick replies found on some messaging apps, but it’s also a lot smarter than those systems. The three possible replies are generated by a deep neural network geared for natural language processing—basically a high-tech chatbot powered by the Google Cloud.
Google’s servers will scan your e-mails, generate three short responses, and stick them at the bottom of the screen or just above the keyboard. It’s like a second tier of auto correct, only for short responses. Tapping on a response will add it to your e-mail reply, and from there you can edit it or just hit send.
Google notes that there is never a person reading your e-mails, only a machine scanning it. All Gmail e-mails get scanned by Google’s servers anyway to create ads and pick out things like tracking numbers from shipping services.
The Google Research Blog has a fun (and technical) rundown of the development of this feature and even talks about the early prototypes. Our favorite line is that an early prototype had a “propensity to respond with ‘I love you’ to seemingly anything.” Google says it fixed that.
The feature is rolling out this week (in English only) to Inbox on iOS and Android devices.