Today — in conjunction with Google’s Horizon business-oriented cloud computing conference, where it announced the formation of the Google Cloud brand — Google introduced new features for some of the Google apps that are now under the umbrella brand name G Suite. Google is using artificial intelligence to enhance Google Drive, Google Docs, Google Sheets, Google Slides, and Google Calendar.
The changes come as Microsoft also hustles to smarten up its Office apps with features like the Researcher and Editor capabilities in Word. Google has previously incorporated artificial intelligence into Google Photos, Inbox by Gmail, Google Translate, and Google Allo, and now it’s becoming available in a few places in Google’s productivity apps.
Google Drive for Android is getting a new feature called Quick Access that pins the most relevant documents to the top of the app. Yay!
“Based on signals like your interaction with colleagues, recurring meetings and activity in Drive, machine intelligence helps Drive understand the rhythm of your workday and offers the files you need before you even ask. Our customer research shows that Quick Access saves about 50% of the time an employee would usually spend finding a file,” Prabhakar Raghavan, vice president of apps for Google Cloud, wrote in a blog post.
Google Docs and Slides are getting the Explore feature, and Google Sheets is getting enhancements to Explore after that feature arrived in the cloud spreadsheet app last year. The technology in Explore derives from natural language processing (NLP) research from the Google Brain team, a spokesperson told VentureBeat in an email.
In Docs, the Explore panel (which is coming to Android, iPhone, and the web) will show text and images from websites that Google thinks are relevant to what you’ve already added to your document, as well as existing relevant documents stored in Google Drive.
In Sheets, now Explore (on iOS, Android, and web) will present you with a text box in which you can type something you want to know in natural language. Google will provide answers and even automatically generate formulas.
In Slides, Google is doing something similar to what it did with Google Sites a few months ago — it’s coming up with alternative designs for each slide in your presentation.
Finally, in Google Calendar, the app will start giving you a few good options for times to meet with your colleagues, taking into consideration when they’re free. If there are no perfect times, then “Calendar will suggest times across the group where the conflicts are easiest to resolve, such as recurring 1:1 meetings,” Raghavan wrote. Also, Calendar will come up with meeting places based on where you’ve met before.
Update on September 30: Added information about the Google Brain team’s contributions to the Explore feature.