Google Duet AI
Source: Google

It's so ubiquitous of a problem that there's a phrase to express the frustration felt: this meeting could've been an email. So Google is offering you a way out, in a manner of speaking, with their new Duet AI for Google Meet. While it's touted as a "you don't have the time" or "you are needed elsewhere" feature, the Duet "Attend for me" option is also sure to see a fair amount of use in the form of "I don't want to be in this call".

It shoes up as an "attend for me" button on the meeting invite, which Duet will use to generate some notes from you to submit, and those will be displayed to the live attendees of the call. When the call is running, Duet will monitor the discussion and take notes for you to review later. There's always the question of how useful those notes will be — in my experience meeting notes are best when they're arranged into action items with assigned people to tackle them.

The sillier question is what happens when "attend for me" is used or abused by everybody in the office. You could end up with meetings that are supposed to have multiple stakeholders and decision makers attending, but too many send their AI notetakers in their place and no decisions can be made. Or everybody could hit the "attend for me" button and you end up with nobody alive on the call (Google says this scenario will be recognized relatively quickly by Meet and the call will be ended).

If everyone subs in Duet AI to avoid attending calls, does corporate reevaluate the meetings, or the people?

Context is also vitally important for meeting notes, both the kind that "attend for me" can submit in advance and the kind that are taken for later review. Duet cannot possibly have the deep understanding of everything that's led up to the call, and thus the historical knowledge that the humans possess and that which is implied but unsaid could go fully over the AI's head.

That's not to say that "attend for me" is a bad idea. It could be better than nothing, especially if your meetings don't have a designated notes taker (or Duet ends up being better at it than that person). And if it ends up being abused, hopefully companies use that trend to reevaluate how they're planning meetings in purpose, time, and attendance.

I've worked at places that overdid the meetings but lacked structure on how meetings should be run, so we spent a lot of time talking about the project but lacking key decision makers on the calls to discuss and approve the next steps. If you end up with meetings having a large and frequent portion of attendees sending Duet in their place, then it's time to look at how your company is prioritizing things. Though knowing a lot of hard-headed corporations, it'll just become "Attendance at scheduled meetings is mandatory, no AI!" instead.

Beyond Meet, Duet AI is also now available in other aspects of Google Workspace, including Docs, Slides, Gmail, Chat, and more. It can build a slide deck from a text document, proofread your email, create charts from raw data, and even summarize long conversations that happened while you were away from your computer. And as it's a generative AI tool like ChatGPT, Duet can also take a prompt like "Write me a job description for an assistant to the regional manager of a local paper sales and distribution office" and it'll do that.

Think of it like Clippy meets ChatGPT, but for Google instead of Microsoft. And no doubt that'll be frustrating to Microsoft that Google has beaten them to the punch despite Microsoft's huge investments in ChatGPT-creator OpenAI (thought that hasn't always gone according to plan). Though getting Duet to do your work for you won't be cheap — Google Workspace already starts at $6 or more per user per month (depending on which features you want), and adding Duet will cost $30 per user per month. But perhaps $1 a day per employee isn't that big of an ask given the potential for productivity gains.

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