First launched for iOS users last May, Gboard integrates search into the keyboard app so users can find GIFs and emojis, as well as search for information online. The app eventually arrived on Android in December, serving as a replacement for the existing Google Keyboard app.
Google has previously outlined some of the machine learning smarts behind the Gboard app, and with its latest update the company is building on a ton of recent initiatives that blur the lines between human creativity and machines.
Now, if you’re wanting to include an emoji in a message, Gboard will allow you to draw a picture of it with your finger via the emoji search box — Google then surfaces the emoji it thinks you’re looking for.
While it’s not entirely clear how much quicker this will prove compared to manually searching for an emoji, in some ways this is likely designed more as a show of technology by Google that gives a practical use case for its machine learning R&D in a public domain.
Last month, Google announced an update to its Allo messaging app that combines human artists with neural networks to turn photographic selfies into stickers automatically. And shortly before that, Google unveiled AutoDraw as an AI experiment that lets anyone create a detailed drawing based on a simple handmade doodle.
The internet giant is also researching ways to enable computers to generate sketches that look as though they were created by humans.
Elsewhere, Gboard also now offers suggestions for phrases that you may wish to type next in real time. This is similar to other popular keyboard apps including SwiftKey, which was acquired by Microsoft last year.
This feature is currently only available in English, though Google notes that more languages will be added soon.