Some believe that email is bloated and dying, but by implementing advances from its machine learning and AI teams, Google has been using Inbox — its..
Read the full article at: techcrunch.com
We read this announcement of Smart Reply in Gmail with great interest. Not just the usual, “Hey a cool new tool we can try out” but actually our founder Philippe is a bit on familiar territory, having created Sinequa, a semantic search engine that brought up a lot of the same questions.
A bit of history on smart responses: Automatic dialog has actually been around a long time. When Philippe was at TelecomParisTech university studying natural language engineering, an “automatic shrink” called Elisa (like the Gainbourg song!) was all the rage. It turns out that people love talking back, even to an automated system.
That was just for fun of course, but there has been lots of serious work done especially on chat networks, for a way to keep dialog going without any effort.
A bonus for companies, not necessarily consumers: Everyone is familiar with the very annoying phone response systems. They are clearly not perfect (who has not wanted to throw the phone across the room at some point or another), but companies have saved lots of money being able to automatically filter questions into the most common ones.
For example, Philippe’s last company was called on to create a tool to handle incoming emails for a major French book company, similar to Barnes and Noble. They had an overwhelming amount of emails, too much for individuals to handle consistently, and wanted a way to handle most of them in a timely manner.
So while they found that you may not be able to answer each question individually, you could group answers by proximity and offer a really good automatic answer that would address most questions within each type of group. Sometimes it worked great, sometimes not.
And any of you internet old timers will remember Ask Jeeves, so it is nice to see it all coming around to individual users of Gmail.
Into the future: We’ve tried the Iphone service, which works great for basic yes/no questions, but with all the work being done around auto responses we imagine that this is something that will be huge, and a huge help, when it finally works for more in-depth responses.
But of course, once intelligent auto-reponses go mainstream, there may be a backlash, at first people will be impressed but later companies will have to go out of their way to prove that theirs is not a canned response.
In the meantime, Google needs mass end user data to train their systems, and we look forward to helping them by trying it out!