WHEN I ASKED Google’s AI writing aid to draft a happy birthday email to a friend, it left my brain in the dust. I had taken about 90 seconds to craft a decent 81-word greeting. But the search giant’s text-generation feature knocked out a flawless 87 words in a third of the time.
That’s exactly what Google wants to see. The Help Me Write feature that launched in March and was rolled out more broadly at the company’s annual conference last week is a radical step beyond the Smart Reply and Smart Compose tools that Gmail has offered for years to generate short phrases. With the new feature, you type a brief description of the email you want to send—“Wish happy birthday to a friend I made last year in San Francisco.” Then you click a button labeled Create, and a full draft appears. Each one bears a disclaimer: “This is a creative writing aid, and is not intended to be factual.”
Help Me Write is the first of a slew of generative AI features Google has planned for its productivity suite, under the umbrella branding of Duet AI for Workspace. I spent a few days testing it in Gmail and Google Docs to speed up wedding planning and uncover its boundaries.
Though it can rapidly unspool drafts of polite emails to businesses or fluent essays on mundane topics, what I gained in time I sometimes lost through new headaches. Duet’s writing often came across as stiff, it sometimes snuck in gender stereotypes and inaccurate information, and it wouldn’t expound on subjects I needed it to—like drinking games. “We’re still learning, and can’t help with that. Try another request,” the tool too often responded to me.