Duet AI for Google Workspace: What is it and how does it work?

5th June 2023
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Google’s Duet AI for Workspace is a massive update coming to the search giant’s app portfolio that adds generative AI features like text summarization and image generation. While currently in beta, Duet AI will eventually become available to all Google users.

Even though Google has used the term Workspace to talk about Duet AI so far, you’ll likely find many of its features useful even outside of work. For example, Help me Write can quite literally draft an email to anyone in your contacts list on your behalf. I tested it out when I needed to email my bank manager about an erroneous charge on my account and again when I needed to contact Amazon about a damaged shipment. All in all, the results were quite admirable for a first draft. I’ll go into more detail about how to use Duet AI later.

In the first phase of Duet’s launch, you can call upon AI to draft your email in the Gmail web app and generate entire documents in Docs. Beyond that, you also have buttons to adjust the language, length, and tone of the text. It’s worth noting that Duet isn’t meant to act as a chatbot, so you won’t get a friendly assistant-like response. That will remain exclusive to Bard, Google’s other AI project, for now.

In the far-off future, Duet AI will also get the ability to create entire presentations in Google Slides, generate meeting notes in Meet, and summarize long email threads in Gmail. A company’s spokesperson told the press that updates to Duet AI should come along every few weeks, but only trusted testers will get access to them first.

How does Duet AI work?

Google’s Duet AI uses a large language model (LLM) under the hood. If you’ve ever used an AI chatbot like ChatGPT, you’re already familiar with this concept. However, Duet also goes one step further by hooking into familiar Google apps like Gmail and Meet. Thanks to these deep integrations, you don’t need to worry about copying and pasting or exporting from one program to another.

Take the new Help me Write feature, for example. Once you get access to it, you’ll be able to activate it via a new magic wand-esque button in Gmail or Google Docs. From there, simply provide a text-based prompt and hit submit. Duet will automatically generate a draft that you can approve or refine further. Likewise, you can ask Google’s Bard AI chatbot to generate a table of information and add it to a new Google Sheets document. That way, you can edit it and collaborate with others.

Google uses its own PaLM 2 language model for all of its AI services, including Duet AI for Workspace.

Duet AI features: What can it do?

Here’s a quick look at some of the major features already available or coming soon to Google apps and services under the Duet AI banner.

Help me Write

The Help me Write feature doesn’t need much of an introduction as we’ve already explained how to use it in a previous section. However, it’s one of the earliest available features in the Duet AI suite that the general public can access, albeit through a waitlist. I signed up for the latter and was eventually granted access.

The Help me Write feature is rather straightforward in its current state. Simply click on the magic wand button to the left of the toolbar in Google Docs or the bottom row in Gmail and you’ll see a new text field show up. This is where you have to enter a prompt for the language model to use as a starting point

Once Duet AI writes the initial draft, you’re presented with a few options. You can ask for a new version using the Recreate button or opt to fine-tune the output. Google gives you four options for the latter: formalize, elaborate, shorten, and the classic “I’m feeling lucky”. They don’t always work as expected, in my experience, as the fourth option converted a formal complaint letter into a haiku. Or maybe it’s just me that missed the point.

In Google Docs, the Help me Write feature will also feature smart chips that you can click to modify key pieces of information. For example, you could click on the [product name] placeholder to edit that portion before adding the AI-generated text to your document.

Help me Organize and Help me Visualize

With the initial release of Help me Organize, you’ll be able to automate the arduous task of scheduling a day-long event or delegating tasks in a large project via Google Sheets.

According to Google, new classification tools will also eventually help eliminate the burden of manual data entry. Based on the description alone, it seems like you’ll be able to select a group of cells (so raw data) and have Duet AI extract patterns and analysis. You won’t have to memorize formulas and create categories for your data.

Moving on, Google Slides gets a new feature called Help me Visualize that can automatically generate images and audio clips. We’ve already seen Microsoft show off a similar feature in its new Designer app. It’s also similar to the kind of AI image generation we’ve come to expect from Midjourney and Dall-E. And the same technology will also power the creation of custom backgrounds in Google Meet.

When will Google’s Duet AI become available?

The good news is that Google has already launched Duet AI, with one small caveat. You’ll have to use the Chrome web browser. But assuming you already meet that requirement or are willing to switch browsers, here’s how to enroll yourself in the beta:

Visit the Google Labs homepage and sign up with your account. From there, you can enroll in various generative AI experiments besides Duet AI for Workspace.
Next, visit the Google Workspace Labs sign-up page and click on the Express Interest button.
Read and accept the terms and conditions via the checkboxes at the bottom of the page. Then, hit the Submit button.
That’s it! You should get access to Duet AI within a matter of hours, if not sooner. My account received the invitation almost immediately. However, this may change at any point.
Once again, you can only use generative AI in Google Docs and Gmail for now. Google will release updates in the coming months, so watch out for new buttons or sidebars in your favorite apps. We know that mobile is a big focus for the company and that Duet AI’s drafting ability in Gmail will likely make its way to the Android app sometime soon.

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