Robots Go To Journalism School

Robbie AllenIn science fiction, robots make lightning fast calculations and have superhuman strength. From “Forbidden Planet” to “2001: A Space Odyssey,” the robots of cinema have played a wide range of roles – as friends and as enemies to humankind. But of all the wonders robots have performed, until now, no one has imagined them as journalists.

When AP announced recently that data-driven stories about company earnings would soon be written automatically, AP Managing Editor Lou Ferrara stressed the move was not intended to replace living, breathing writers with heartless machines, but to free up his staff to do more reporting, going beyond the numbers to provide insights on what the numbers mean.

The remarkable technology that produces personalized narrative content from Big Data is developed by Durham-based Automated Insights, which helps companies in such markets as finance, fitness, business intelligence, real estate and sports to realize the full potential of their data. A veteran of Cisco and IBM, Robbie Allen is the author of ten books on a variety of technical topics from O’Reilly, Apress and Addison-Wesley.

“Beyond the Book listeners will likely have read automated content and probably didn’t even know it.  The quality of the content has gotten significantly better over the last couple of years,” Allen tells CCC’s Chris Kenneally. “Yahoo recently did a poll, essentially asking users to compare or determine which content out of human-generated versus machine-generated was done by human or machine.  Effectively, the results were people couldn’t tell the difference.”

AI’s technology is able to humanize big data by personalizing stories to one user among millions – delivering a real-time, tailored narrative.  Its Wordsmith platform automatically transforms raw data into narratives (articles, summaries, headlines), visualizations (charts, tables, graphs) and interactive applications (mobile and Twitter/Facebook–based social applications). In a recently-closed Series B financing round, investors in the start-up included Samsung Venture Investment Corporation, AOL co-founder Steve Case, as well as The Associated Press.

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