Google is rolling out its latest tech magic trick this week: an A.I. system that will read and respond to emails for you when you’re on the go. Called Smart Reply, the technology was designed to create alternatives for those hasty typo-ridden emails we all craft in a rush. The system generates three possible responses for each email, ranging from three to six words; simply pick the response that best fits your intended message and tone, and hit send.
Smart Reply, which will be rolled out on the Google Inbox app for Android and iOs, uses a form of artificial intelligence called “deep learning,” which learns more and more about language and grammar as it reads more emails. That means, even if its responses are currently pretty simple, it’s only going to get more sophisticated over time.
In order to develop the email response system, Google had Smart Reply analyze actual email conversations across Gmail. It learned common email replies like “Thanks,” “Sounds good,” and “How about tomorrow?” and learned how to identify their appropriate contexts.
According to Popular Science, Smart Reply uses two neural networks to craft its replies. The first reads and analyzes your email, while the second generates a response.
But while neural networks are inspired by the web of neurons that make up the human brain, that doesn’t mean the Smart Reply system understands your emails the way a human would. For example, the system generates its email responses by choosing each word based on the logical and grammatical information that preceded it: “It’s a lot like the game where a group of people have to tell a story one word at a time,” explains Popular Science. “Except it’s only one person, and that person is a machine.”
[h/t: Popular Science]