If you've wanted to use Google's canned Smart Replies in chat apps, you've been limited to using Allo or (if you're on the right carrier) Android Messages. But what if you're one of the many, many people using something else? Don't fret: Google's experimental Area 120 group is working on a Reply project that, as the name implies, will bring Smart Replies to many messaging clients (currently just for Android). Hangouts is logically on the list, but so are third-party apps like Facebook Messenger, Skype, WhatsApp and even Twitter's direct messages. You'd only have to tap a button in your notifications to confirm that you're on your way or say you're doing well.
Reply should have some intelligent features as well, such as a "sorry I can't talk" driving mode and a vacation responder to stop coworkers from bugging you when you're off the clock. It should also punch through silent mode if there's an urgent message demanding your attention.
The effort is very early -- Area 120 is still soliciting users willing to give it a shot. It's going to be a while before it arrives, and it might not support every app on the list. If it works as promised, though, it could make Smart Replies a mainstay across Android, not just within Google's ecosystem. As cold and impersonal as they can be, they do the job when you just need to acknowledge a message.