Google is making some big changes to Google Chat, the answer to Slack and Microsoft Teams. The messaging app — aka the product formerly known as hangouts — is getting a new design, some features that will obviously feel familiar to Slack and Teams users, and plenty of new Duet AI collaboration tools from Google. From a report: Most of the new features will roll out later this year and early next year, but together they make for a much more useful and competitive chat platform. Duet is the most important new feature and may be a reason for many Workspace users to start using Chat. You can use Duet to search and ask questions about all your stuff in Drive and Gmail, and summarize both documents and conversations. You can also use AI-powered auto-correction in Chat, and with Smart Reply you may never have to manually talk to your colleagues again. You can talk to Duet in a one-on-one chat or call on Duet in a group chat or room to get things done. “You essentially have a colleague with infinite memory and amazing recall at your fingertips,” said Vamsee Jasti, Google’s product lead for Chat.
Outside of the AI integrations, Chat is also getting a facelift. The app has so far looked like a fairly basic messaging app, with a list of conversations on the left and the active chat on the right; now there will be a lot more going on. (And yes, it will be much more like Slack and Teams.) There will be a new home page with all your recent conversations, plus special ways to see all your starred conversations and mentions. Everything will be reverse chronological for now, but Google says it plans to start organizing and organizing things in a more intelligent way next year. The interface as a whole is also getting a bit of a clean-up, with bigger buttons and aesthetics borrowed from Google’s Material You design language.