Update (02/21/18): Reply is still in testing, but you can download an early version today! The APK has shown up on APKMirror, which you can download at the link below.
Original article (02/13/18): If you happen to use Gmail, Inbox, Google Allo, or Android Messages on Project Fi, you no doubt know (and love!) Smart Reply. You know those boxes that pop up when you are composing a reply to a message and make suggestions what to say? That’s Smart Reply in action, and it’s going to start rolling out to chat platforms in the future.
Smart Reply is an AI-based feature that runs within the app. It scans the message you are replying to and takes into account other factors like your current location, what’s in your Google Calendar, the time of day, and even the weather, and then suggests applicable replies that you can tap and automatically fill in.
For example, if you are replying to an email that includes the phrase “Is Tuesday good for you?” Smart Reply will scan your calendar, see that Tuesday is totally open, and then make suggested replies, like, “Tuesday works for me,” or “Let me get back to you.”
Google’s internal incubator, Area 120, is working hard to incorporate this functionality into chat apps such as Google Hangouts, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Android Messages (for all carriers), Skype, Twitter DMs, and Slack. The newly announced project is simply called “Reply” and will be initially available to Android users. You can fill out this form for a chance to beta test Reply once it’s available.
Area 120’s vision is to have Reply take over all the busy work when it comes to responding to messages of all kinds. An example would be receiving messages while driving; using your phone’s GPS and Bluetooth sensors, Smart Reply would know you are in your car. When a text comes during your trip, it would mute the notification and automatically respond with, “I am driving right now and will respond to you when I get to my destination,” or something along those lines.
There would also be a vacation responder that would automatically reply while you are in an area without cell service for an extended period. Smart Reply would even be able to break out of your phone’s silent mode if a message came in that seemed urgent, such as, “We’re all here, where are you?” or “I am in the dungeon of the castle, my name is Zelda, please help me.”
Smart Reply first appeared in the mobile app Inbox two years ago. While the Inbox app is still available in the Google Play Store, many of its features have been rolled into the official Gmail app.
Google oversees the Area 120 incubator team, but its work is not actually under Google’s control. As such, Google confirmed Reply experimentation is ongoing, but wouldn’t give any details such as who is on the Area 120 team or when the product might start to launch. But get excited: replying to messages will eventually get a whole lot easier.