Google Inbox will reply to your emails automatically

The company's Smart Reply feature will read the content of your email before writing back

Google Inbox can now compose replies to your emails so you don't have to take time out to respond.

Smart Reply will read the content of the email and then select three appropriate responses for you to choose from, the search giant has confirmed.

If Google thinks the email requires a more sophisticated reply, it will start the conversation off so you only need to craft part of the email message by suggesting short phrases that you can select to start off the process.

Like many of Google's innovations, Smart Reply learns more about the types of responses you are likely to use the more you use the feature.

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For example, if you respond asking for more information about a particular product a representative of a company is pitching you, it won't add that reponse as an option next time that contact emails you, but will instead try and predict the flow of a natural conversation.

Greg Corrado, senior research scientist at Google, explained the benefits of using a machine-learned system over a rules-based system.

"Any engineer's ability to invent 'rules' would be quickly outstripped by the tremendous diversity with which real people communicate." he said. "A machine-learned system, by contrast, implicitly captures diverse situations, writing styles, and tones. These systems generalise better, and handle completely new inputs more gracefully than brittle, rule-based systems ever could."

Smart Reply is built on a pair of recurrent neural networks, with the first used to encode the incoming email and the other to predict what the user what want to say in a response. The first network can process nuances in conversation, identifying similarities between different ways of saying the same thing to make sure it translates the meaning correctly.

The response stage, however, is designed to generate three very different replies, rather than bringing up possible replies that all have the same meaning, but just phrased differently.

To do this, Google developed a learning system for mapping natural language responses with different semantic intents, providing the user with very different responses.

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"There's actually a lot going on behind the scenes to make Smart Reply work. Inbox uses machine learning to recognize emails that need responses and to generate the natural language responses on the fly," Blint Mikls, software engineer at Google, said. "And much like how Inbox gets better when you report spam, the responses you choose (or don't choose!) help improve future suggestions."

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