Google’s Duet AI brings more generative features to Workspace apps

It’s also adding new generative developer tools in Google Cloud AI.


After OpenAI’s ChatGPT caught the tech world off guard late last year, Google reportedly declared a “code red,” scrambling to plan a response to the new threat. The first fruit of that reorientation trickled out earlier this year with its Bard chatbot and some generative AI features baked into Google Workspace apps. Today at Google I/O 2023, we finally see a more fleshed-out picture of how the company views AI’s role in its cloud-based productivity suite. Google Duet AI is the company’s branding for its collection of AI tools across Workspace apps.

Like Microsoft Copilot for Office apps, Duet AI is an umbrella term for a growing list of generative AI features across Google Workspace apps. (The industry seems to have settled on marketing language depicting generative AI as your workplace ally.) First, the Gmail mobile app will now draft full replies to your emails based on a prompt in a new “Help me write” feature. In addition, the mobile Gmail app will soon add contextual assistance, “allowing you to create professional replies that automatically fill in names and other relevant information.”

Screenshot of Google Slides, showing the Duet AI helper.
Screenshot of Google Slides, showing the Duet AI helper. (Google)

Duet AI also makes an appearance in Google Slides. Here, it takes the form of image generation for your presentations. Like Midjourney or DALL-E 2, Duet AI can now turn simple text prompts (entered into the Duet AI “Sidekick” side panel) into AI-generated images to enhance Slides presentations. It could help save you the trouble of scouring the internet for the right slide image while spicing them up with something original.

In Google Sheets, Duet AI can understand the context of a cell’s data and label it accordingly. The spreadsheet app also adds a new “help me organize” feature to create custom plans: describe what you want to do in plain language, and Duet AI will outline strategies and steps to accomplish it. “Whether you’re an event team planning an annual sales conference or a manager coordinating a team offsite, Duet AI helps you create organized plans with tools that give you a running start,” the company said.

Presentation of Duets AI in Docs
Presentation of Duets AI in Docs (Google)

Meanwhile, Duet AI in Google Meet can generate custom background images for video calls with a text prompt. Google says the feature can help users “express themselves and deepen connections during video calls while protecting the privacy of their surroundings.” Like the Slides image generation, Duet’s Google Meet integration could be a shortcut to save you from searching for an image that conveys the right ambiance for your meeting (while hiding any unwanted objects or bystanders behind you).

Duet also adds an “assisted writing experience” in Google Docs’ smart canvas. Entering a prompt describing what you want to write about will generate a Docs draft. The feature also works in Docs’ smart chips (automatic suggestions and info about things like documents and people mentioned in a project). Additionally, Google is upgrading Docs’ built-in Grammarly-style tools. A new proofread suggestion pane will offer tips about concise writing, avoiding repetition and using a more formal or active voice. The company adds that you can easily toggle the feature when you don’t want it to nag you about grammar.

Initially, you’ll have to sign up for a waitlist to try the new Duet AI Workspace features. Google says you can enter your info here to be notified as it opens the generative AI features to more users and regions “in the weeks ahead.”

Thomas Kurian at Google I/O revealing Duet AI for Google Cloud
Thomas Kurian at Google I/O revealing Duet AI for Google Cloud (Google)

Duet AI also adds a set of machine learning-powered Google Cloud developer tools. It can provide real-time code assistance and recommend generated code blocks while pointing out errors. The feature supports Go, Java, Javascript, Python and SQL. Meanwhile, Duet AI’s chat assistance is a chatbot to answer your coding and Google Cloud questions. Finally, Google Vertex is adding new foundation models for AI developers to play with: Codey, Imagen and Chirp.

The company announced new foundation models for developers and data scientists. These include Codey, which can speed up development with real-time code completion and generation and supports over 20 programming languages. Second, Imagen is the company’s image generator, including upscaling, mask-free editing and automatic captioning in more than 300 languages. Finally, Chirp offers real-time speech translation (based on a two-billion-parameter speech model). Google says it “helps organizations engage with customers and constituents more inclusively in their native languages.” Examples include using it for call center agents and captioning videos. “Chirp achieves 98% accuracy on English and relative improvement of up to 300% in languages with less than 10 million speakers,” the company said.

Google example of coding with Duet AI
Google example of coding with Duet AI (Google)

Also folded into the Cloud AI announcements is the Embeddings API for text and images. It can help developers build “powerful semantic search and text classification.” The company says, “Embeddings convert text and image data into multi-dimensional numerical vectors that map semantic relationships and can be processed by large models and are particularly useful for longer inputs, such as texts with thousands of tokens.” Embeddings API is available now for devs in Vertex AI, with the text version in preview; only trusted testers can use the text / image API.

Follow all of the news from Google I/O 2023 right here.