Google is Getting Smart Compose into Docs

The AI-powered feature would soon start providing writing suggestions to users outside of their Gmail Inbox though for the moment it would be available only to beta testers


Ever gotten irritated with auto-correct on your smartphones? Or found that the auto-complete feature on Gmail to be helpful when sending short replies? Well, brace up for some more of this AI-powered features as Google gets set to install Smart Compose on its word processing software kit starting from Google Docs.

For the moment though, Google is opening up the feature only for domain administrators for beta testing whereby once one signs up with details of the email ID and domain details and accept the terms of testing agreement, the Smart Compose feature would be available for all users in the domain who would get auto-enrolled.

When developing new products and features, Google often makes them available initially through a Pre-General Availability Alpha or Beta program to help develop and test the product or feature and get feedback from end users before making them generally available, Google says.

The company had unveiled the Smart Compose last year following its Smart Reply feature on emails that suggested short responses to manage the immediacy. However, users have responded less enthusiastically to the Smart Compose feature, given that some found it irksome to be told what to reply and most others found the response bland and most often just covering the basics.

By adding Smart Compose to Google Docs, the Search Giant is hoping to steal a march on Microsoft’s office suite by providing suggestions based on the company’s machine learning (ML) models that goes beyond just responding to emails that are usually action-oriented. Of course, this could once again open up privacy issues though Google insists that it is only using ML with no human intervention at all.

The company has also intimated testers that the feature could be turned off, given that there is very little that the ML systems do in terms of customising responses based on past writing suggestions. Rather, it plays it safe by using bland and very basic level phrasing and pushes corporate language into the mix to ensure that email responses are in line with how people react in a verbal interaction.

Which is possibly why Google is limiting Smart Compose to enterprise customers in this phase. The feature would be available only in English to domain administrators who volunteer to test it across their respective domains.

But that’s not all. Till date auto-correct targeted spellings but now Google is hoping to even correct one’s grammar while writing emails or using Google Docs. A report published in says that Google would also be adding new grammar suggestions to Docs based on the techniques used for machine translation models.

In fact, a few days ago, Google’s research team working on Docs said in a blog post, “With the latest advancements from our research team in the areas of language understanding – made possible by neural machine translation – soon we’re making a significant improve to how we correct language errors by using Neural Grammar Correction in Docs.”

Explaining the logic behind the experiment, the research team says that since grammatical error correction (GEC) is perceived as translation from ungrammatical to grammatical sentences, Google applies sequence-to-sequence models used for neural machine translation to this task. However, to get the best results it uses a two-pronged approach whereby good sentences are made worse via auto translation into another language and then back to English. Thereafter, a second method extracts source-target pairs from Wikipedia edit histories with minimum filtration.

“And, by applying neural machine translation models to grammar correction, we are able to correct many more of the grammar mistakes you may make while writing,” says the blog post authored by Jayakumar Hoskere, Shankar Kumar and Simon Tong of the Google Docs team.

Though the AI-based response feature has witnessed lukewarm response from users in the past, the fact remains that these experiments are among the most intriguing ones that Google has brought to fore before the general public, given that most of the AI that they use is working behind the scenes.

Would it prove irritating, intrusive or largely ignorable is something only time will tell. And, happy Beta Testing if you happen to be the domain administrator out there.

TAGS: Google, Smart Compose, Smart Reply, Gmail, Google Docs