Google is bringing the AI (artificial intelligence)-based Smart Reply feature, first seen in Gmail, to the notifications section in Android smartphones. This will allow Android users to give instant replies to messages from the notifications panel without even typing a word. It works with all messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Skype and Facebook Messenger, and is not limited to Google Allo or Hangouts.
Smart Reply is currently available in Inbox by Gmail and Google Allo. It works by going through every email in the inbox and messages in Allo and then uses AI to suggest a bunch of automated and contextual replies. Users can select and send the reply they like by tapping on them.
Unlike Gmail and Allo, where the feature is baked right into the app, Smart Reply in notifications requires users to download a separate app called Reply. It is still in beta mode and not available for download on the Play Store.
Once the app is installed, it will require access to notification, so it can access the message in the notification and the name of the sender. This information will be sent to Google’s servers where it will be processed by AI to suggest smart replies, which will then be relayed back to users on their smartphone. Google claims the data shared with the server is sent through a secure network and will be erased immediately.
This is likely to irk privacy conscious users, but app tools like Reply won’t be able suggest more appropriate and contextual replies unless they know the content of the message. Most AI-based tools such as Google Assistant also require access to a lot of personal data on smartphones so it can know the users better and provide more accurate and contextual suggestions.
Reply in notifications works on the same lines. It will suggest two to three reply options right under the notifications. Users can select and send the reply they find more appropriate by tapping on them. So if users get a message form a contact who wants to know when they can be at home or work, Reply will use Maps to check the traffic status and the smartphone’s location to suggest more contextual replies.
This tool is not limited to giving suggestions. Users can ask it to send auto replies to specific type of messages if they are driving, running, sleeping or in a meeting. For example, if users are on vacation and get a message saying, “are you working today”, Reply will check the calendar and send a message which would say “user is on vacation and will join office on this date” by itself. If someone sends a message with words such as urgent in it, the app will play a unique alert sound on users’ smartphone and send a reply to the sender informing them about the sound alert. These features are optional and can be disabled any time.
Reply can make life a little easier for Android users by doing away with the need to type replies to simple messages.
To take full advantage of its features, users need to be on a seamless internet connection.