Smart Reply uses a form of artificial intelligence called “deep learning” to scan your incoming email, and will provide you with three short responses, one of which you use to reply to an email with a quick tap. The responses are generated on the fly, and the system quickly learns to adapt to your Smart Reply choices. And as is the case with Gmail’s spam filters, the more you use it, the better it becomes at providing relevant information.
Since Smart Reply only offers up brief responses, you’ll of course have to flesh out the rest of the email on your own if “I’m working on them” isn’t going to be sufficient to please your boss. “For those emails that require a bit more thought, it gives you a jump start so you can respond right away,” writes Bálint Miklós, a Google software engineer working on the Smarty Reply function.
When it comes to the tricky issue of privacy, Google notes that humans aren’t reading your emails — just computers. “In developing Smart Reply we adhered to the same rigorous user privacy standards we’ve always held,” said Google Senior Research Scientist Greg Corrado. “This means researchers have to get machine learning to work on a data set that they themselves cannot read, which is a little like trying to solve a puzzle while blindfolded -- but a challenge makes it more interesting!”
After slogging through some early kinks, like offering the response “I love you” in nearly every situation, Smart Reply will be ready for primetime later this week. It is first being rollout to the Inbox by Gmail app in English via Google Play and the App Store.