Google's Help Me Write is rolling out, but who is going to use it?
When Google unveiled Bard at its I/O 2023 event, it highlighted a couple of experimental features. Google promised that some users would be able to test these features. Google has dropped the Bard waitlists since then, except for people from Europe, as Bard is still not available there officially. There are ways around this artificial blocking, however.
One of these features, which Google calls Help Me Write, promises to take away the burden of writing emails manually. The main idea behind it is to let the AI write the email for you. All you have to do, is provide instructions to the AI, so that it knows what the email should be about.
Google has started the roll out of the Help Me Write feature in the official Gmail application for Android and iOS. Google Workspaces Lab is only available for English U.S. users at the time, and only users who signed-up for the experiment may start using the AI's help to write emails.
On Gmail, Help Me Write becomes available for these invited users when they select the compose option. There they find the new "Help me write" option, which they need to select. Doing so opens a new text field that users may use to provide the AI with instructions.
The AI responds with a crafted email message, which the Gmail user may edit, delete or send to the selected recipients.
What are the downsides of using Help Me Write?
While Google's Help Me Write sounds like a useful tool to speed up the composing of emails in Gmail, especially on mobile devices, Gmail users need to be aware of the downsides as well.
Google admits here that the feature is collecting additional data when used. The company writes that it uses and stores the following data if the feature is used:
- Prompts that the user enters or selects.
- The text that is generated by the AI.
- The feedback provided by the user on the generated text.
- Any text that is modified or refined by the user.
- Text of "up to four previous email messages" of the thread that "Help Me Write" was used for.
In other words: Google may read and use previous email messages, up to four, and any text that is entered by the user while the feature is enabled.
The data collecting may persuade some users not to try the feature, especially when it comes to business or sensitive email conversations.
Another question that should come up is who Google designed the feature for. The examples that the company gives on the linked support page have one or two lines of instructions, which the AI turns into two short paragraphs of text.
These two paragraphs should be read by the user to make sure that they do not contain errors, e.g., logical errors, or miss details that need to be included. As is the case with all AI interactions that require text input, it may be necessary to refine the input sometimes to get a better result.
All of this takes time and it may be necessary to refine parts of the text, e.g., to add details to it or choose a different wording.
All in all, it may sometimes be faster to write the text manually in the first place, as it gives users more control, and does not grant Google access to the data.
Another aspect that needs to be looked at is whether the produced emails appear genuine to the recipient. An elaborate email expressing interest in getting hired might lead to a very unpleasant face-to-face experience.
Now You: would you use AI to help write emails or other text?Advertisement