Many people know Google first and foremost as a search engine company. But really it’s a machine-learning company, using data to make predictions that get incorporated into applications like search and advertising without people even realizing it. Today Google is announcing in a blog post that people can now choose to apply its machine-learning savvy to Google Sheets, the company’s spreadsheet app, to make educated guesses and fill in blank cells.
Google Sheets, the company’s online spreadsheet, is getting quite a bit smarter today with the launch of the Smart Autofill add-on. Smart Autofill can look at the existing values in a spreadsheet and then, with the help of the Google Prediction API, automatically divine the data for missing values in a column. Essentially, the algorithm learns as much as it can about the information that is already available in a spreadsheet and then it looks for patterns to build a model based on this information. Say you have a spreadsheet with a number of data points about vehicles (this is Google’s default example). Maybe you have pricing for some, but not for all. Google will look at the data in the spreadsheet and then try to predict the right values for the missing prices. Or maybe you are slightly OCD and keep a spreadsheet for the restaurants you visit with data about their cuisine, ambiance, cost and other data. Now when you add a new place, Google will try to predict how much you will like this one.