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Shortwave email app introduces AI-powered summaries

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Last year, a bunch of Google executives launched an email app called Shortwave, which aimed to fill in the gap left by the search giant’s Inbox app. Now, the company has introduced an AI-powered summary feature so you don’t have to read long emails or threads to get the gist.

The feature — powered by OpenAI’s GPT-3 — is available on all platforms in beta for free. The company says the summary also works well when translating emails from other languages. Shortwave has tested the feature on different kinds of use cases ranging from skimming over a newsletter to looking at a large number of emails in a short time.

What’s more, the company says that users can include a summary of a previous message while forwarding an email. Others can read this summary to get the context of the conversation quickly even if they don’t use Shortwave.

The startup plans to introduce more AI-powered functions in the future including more summarization methods and smart composing. It also wants to introduce a semantic search that allows users to search for phrases like “What time does my flight take off next Tuesday?”.

“The new capabilities of large language models have swung the door wide open for new ways to interact with your inbox. At Shortwave, we aim to pave the way towards an AI-enabled email future, starting with Smart Summaries, launching today in beta,” it said in a blog post.

Shortwave said that going forward free users will have some amount of access to these AI-powered features. However, the company is still evaluating its pricing strategy during the summary feature’s test phase.

While Shortwave is free for basic usage, it offers a subscription for $9 per month for power users and custom plans for teams as well. Apart from AI-powered features, Shortwave offers better categorization than Gmail, email grouping based on time, mentioning teammates, pinned emails, and support for emoji and GIF responses. The app treats emails as items in a to-do list, so you can snooze them or mark them as done.

Generating summaries for different kinds of media formats is a big use case for large language models. Last month, transcription company Otter launched a bot that automatically summarizes a meeting. Microsoft’s new AI-powered products like Bing and Edge can also summarize pages and documents. There are also other tools that provide a synopsis from links to YouTube videos and Slack threads to Resumes.