Google unveils AI updates for Workspace collaboration suite

The company announced a variety of AI-based upgrades to Workspace, its suite of collaboration tools and applications for business users.

Workspace AI announcement

At its annual I/O conference, Google today announced a number of AI-infused upgrades to its Workspace suite of office tools and applications for business teams to use in collaborating on projects.

As a competitor to Microsoft’s Copilot AI assistant, Google announced Duet AI, which offers a number of generative AI tools for Google’s productivity apps within Workspace. Duet AI offers assistance in writing text in Google Docs and Gmail, as well as help with image generation for Slides, a PowerPoint-like slide presentation program. Duet AI can also summarize conversations on Google Meet, a video conferencing service.

Google Workspace offers unified workflows, texting, and voice communications — primarily through Gmail and Google Meet. Workspace’s collaboration apps include Google Docs, Sheets, Slides and Forms.

Google also announced a new name and use for Smart Compose, a textual assistant now called “Help Me Write.” Help Me Write offers users prose suggestions for use in Google Docs, Slides, Sheets, and Drawings. The only update, however, is that Help Me Write will now be offered on Gmail on mobile devices.

Sheets, Google’s spreadsheet app, has been upgraded to include a Bard-based text box allowing a user to ask Sheets to create a spreadsheet based on a typed query. For example, a business user could ask for the top supply chain providers of a part needed for manufacturing a product. Sheets will provide a spreadsheet with the suppliers, along with images and links to products.

Sheets also plugs into Google Charts, an interactive chart and data tool. So, like Excel, Sheets can be used to organize data and then produce bar, pie, or other styles of charts for data illustration.

Google also talked up “Sidekick,” which is able to read, summarize, and answer questions on documents across different Google apps.

Google called its Workspace AI upgrades “experimental” and said the only way for people to access the AI upgrades will be to sign up on a waitlist for Google Labs.

Chirag Dekate, a vice president analyst at Gartner Research, called Google’s AI-infused Workspace a tool to transform user productivity, “while empowering users to protect their data and models.”

“Google’s leadership class Generative AI infused across their Google Workspace enables a differentiated consumer experience,” said Dekate. “From Duet AI-enabled email composing tools to writing documents, creating custom images, and using pre-integrated generative AI models, Workspace as a platform offers an integrated experience where users do not have to farm different sources of models for similar functionality.”

Google and Microsoft are in the throes of an AI-based competition. In February, the companies announced AI-enhancements to their search engines; Microsoft touted upgrades to Bing while Google countered with an AI-infused version of Search. The goal for AI in search engines is to offer users a greater depth search results.

For its part, Google also released Bard, an experimental, conversational chatbot the company said is powered by a technology called Language Model for Dialogue Applications (or LaMDA for short).

In its February announcement, Google revealed a partnership and strategic stake in DeepMind — an AI competitor to OpenAI, the company heavily backed by Microsoft investments and whose technology is the basis for Microsoft’s ChatGPT chatbot.

IBM and AWS have also jumped into the pond with their own generative AI products, aimed at helping enterprises design and tune large language models (LLMs) for their operational and business requirements.

“From Android, to Workspace and Enterprise cloud platforms, Google demonstrated its clear intent to lead the conversation around generative AI and create transformative moments for its users, both consumers and enterprise alike,” Dekate said.

Copyright © 2023 IDG Communications, Inc.

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