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Google Priority Acts as Virtual Personal Assistant

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Google has unveiled a new feature called ‘Priority inbox’ for its web based Gmail email service. The utility is designed to make it easier to manage the mountains of of email that most people suffer with, by automatically telling you which ones are most important.

While this sounds somewhat unrealistic at first, Google said it has developed smart ways of detecting those emails that are more important to you from those which are less important. It dubs these as ‘bologna’ – as in messages that are not spam but are not, well, important.

"We've evolved Gmail's filter to address this problem," said Doug Aberdeen, on of Google's software engineers in a blog post. "{We've} extended it to not only classify outright spam, but also to help users separate this "bologna" from the important stuff. In a way, Priority Inbox is like your personal assistant, helping you focus on the messages that matter without requiring you to set up complex rules."

Aberdeen said that the the system works by monitoring the emails you read, and which ones you reply to - and marks those as important. You can also help it along Tivo style, by manually clicking plus and minus buttons to indicate which conversations are important – or not, as the case may be. Messages are categorized into three types – ‘Important’, Starred, and Everything else’.

The system is illustrated with an overly cutesy animated video.

Last year, Google tried to revolutionise email in 2009 with its much hyped Google Wave system, but after it proved to be a bit of a damp squib, Wave was summarily washed away last month.

We imagine this less radical system could prove to be rather more helpful.Priority inbox is part of the Gmail Labs programme and will be rolled out to Gmail and Google Apps customers gradually over the next week. Its arrival will be indicated by the appearance of "New! Priority Inbox", at the top right of Gmail.

Link: Gmail blog post

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