Google has unveiled a range of updates to its Workspace productivity apps aimed at easing the workflow of remote teams. Among the features announced at the company's I/O event are auto-generated text summaries of chat conversations to help keep team members on the same page.
The summary feature was rolled out in February to Google’s Docs word processing tool, where it is used to generate an overview of text within a document. The company today extended the summaries to Workspace “Spaces” — the chat rooms that enable conversations and file sharing for a specific purpose, such as a particular team or project.
Summaries in Spaces select and highlight the most important information from a chat, and allow users to quickly skip to the correct place in the chat history.
“You'll be able to see a helpful digest of the most pertinent information, decisions and actions from a Space without having to read every missed message,” Drew Rowny, product lead for Gmail and Google Chat, said before the announcement. “You can click to jump right to the part of the conversation that's most important to you, so you can dig into the details easily, stay on top of everything and catch up quickly.”
The feature is due to launch in the coming months for English-language Workspace customers using the Business, Enterprise, Education, Essentials, and Frontline editions.
Google also plans to bring automated transcriptions to Meet calls to allow team members to catch up on meetings they missed out on. That feature is due out later this year, Google said. The summary feature in Docs and Spaces will also be applied to transcription text, though this won’t arrive until 2023.
“The Google Workspace team is delivering features that matter, that streamline communication and collaboration without getting in the way, and building a narrative that better communicates their efforts to deliver, in Google's words, ‘collaboration equity,’” said Wayne Kurtzman, research director at IDC.
He said the Workspace updates show Google is focused on streamlining work, collaboration, and communication for teams, while adding features to that meet expectations of tech-savvy workers.
“This is as true for internal teams as for working with partners, suppliers, and customers — a fast-growing need and expectation in doing business,” said Kurtzman.
Google’s AI technology is being applied to Workspace apps in a variety of ways. To improve call quality, new “portrait restore” and “portrait light” capabilities use machine learning to counter common problems caused by poor connectivity and low light, while “de-reverberation” automatically cancels out echoes that users encounter in certain rooms or spaces.
Portrait restore will come to Business Plus and Enterprise Plus subscriptions later this year; portrait light will be offered in the coming months to Business Standard, Business Plus and Enterprise Plus customers. And de-reverberation will also be available on the Business Plus, Enterprise Standard and Plus, Education Plus, and the Teaching Learning Upgrade plans.
A live-sharing feature will enable interaction with different apps while on a video call, such as YouTube and third-party platforms. Google did not immediately provide timeline for when those third-party services would be available.
New security features are also on the way. The phishing and malware alert system currently available in Gmail will be extended to protect other Workspace apps, namely Docs, Sheets and Slides.
It's expected to be generally available later this year.