Cleo Espiritu

Google I/O 2021: Session Roundup

Spent yesterday watching Google I/O — here’s some of the highlights from the sessions I’ve watched!

Google Workspace Related

Smart Canvas

Google I/O Keynote

Smart canvas was introduced in the Keynote as a new experience in Workspace that makes collaboration easier across Docs, Sheets, Slides and Meet. Highlights include:

  • Smart Chips – Creates reference/previews/links to other relevant documents or meetings that your team are collaborating on. To use these chips, you simply type the @ symbol and a search string to view the list of chips available, in addition to the users to tag
  • Templates – Using the ‘@’ symbol again, you can bring up a list of templates (e.g. meeting notes, checklists) that’ll help you create your document faster. The checklists even integrates with Google tasks
  • Seamless Integration with Meet – There’s now a Meet button right on your toolbar for you to launch Meet on the side so you can continue to work on your document during the meeting. There’s also a number of enhancement to the Meet experience, such as live translations and better control of the viewing space.
  • Pageless format – You can now get rid of the concept of paper size and remove the page boundaries from your doc! I know this’ll save me headaches on trying to fit everything onto a ‘page’ that I have no intention of printing!
  • Assisted writing in Docs – Docs will give warnings on potentially offensive wordings as well as stylistic suggestions to help you compose document faster
  • Emoji in Docs – 😀
Google Slide ‘smart chip’

Some of these features are released now, others will be rolled out through the year. See the Google Workspace blog post for more information.

AppSheet – Email AMP and Apps Script Integration

Develop AppSheet with Workspace AMP

Chris and Sarmad showed off a couple of cool integrations with AppSheet! First Sarmad showed off Gmail AMP, where you can automatically trigger emails from an AppSheet app that can embed a view from the AppSheet app – thus, the recipient can interact and take action right within the email without the need to launch the app separately. Plus, all of this can be done with no code – pretty spiffy!

An approval UI built on AppSheet embedded in an email so the recipient can approve a request right within the email

Chris then followed up with how you can integrate Apps Script to AppSheet app, which involves deploying your Apps Script as an API and have App Sheet call it via a webhook. A bit of setup required to get this working, but definitely opens up more integration options to other Google Workspace products (Docs/Slides/etc)!

Adding a webhook in AppSheet to call an Apps Script function

This talk definitely inspired me to re-visit the ‘flower shop’ demo I showed last year at SheetCon to enhance the solution to take advantage of these two features 🙂

Enhancing User Experience in Google Workspace

Enhancing Google Workspace

Charles gave a great presentation on tools available to Google Workspace developers to improve business users’ experiences. There is a good breakdown of the ‘building blocks’ available in Workspace.

Workspace Building Block
Workspace Building Blocks

Then he covered in more details the use of Workspace Add-ons and Chatbots. Add-ons is actually a space I haven’t dived into much myself but I definitely have been meaning to – the ability to add new capabilities that’s embedded right alongside all the Workspace apps like Gmail and calendar is very powerful and I can already think of a couple use cases I want to build for myself.

As for chatbots – I’ve done a demo of chatbots a number of times – I think they are so fun to build! I personally have built a chatbot that uses Dialogflow that’s essentially my little Google Assistant – it can take notes, it can list my calendar events, it can tell a joke, etc 🙂 And they are not too difficult to built! You can also now configure and create Slash Commands to help users discover the functions of your bot.

My own custom Slash command to explain a function of my bot

You can lay out & customize your bot’s response with cards, which can be a pain to set up, but we do have…

The Card Builder Tool

The Card Builder Tool

Steve gave a quick demo of the Card Builder tool which will make it easier to build cards for chatbots and add-ons!

Card Builder

Solving Everyday Problems with Machine Learning

These machine learning sessions are always so fascinating! Dale showed how to use the video intelligence API to create a search for their family videos. I also discovered the Google Sheets Semantic Reactor plugin, which is a very interesting plugin to search/rank text on a google sheets – it gives you the ability to leverage pre-trained language models to do some natural language processing.

That’s my wrap up of all the Workspace related content I found on I/O. There are tons of other interesting content, such as the new Material You design system and accessibility talks, and the keynote is always a good watch! They are all available on demand at the I/O site.