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Like it or not, AI tech is “entering the era of the narrative,” explains Kris Hammond, chief scientist at Narrative Science, one of several “natural language generation” startups emerging as vendors in this nascent field. “These are narratives generated by systems that understand data, that give us information to support the decisions we need to make about tomorrow.”
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Hammond started the University of Chicago's artificial intelligence lab and while teaching at Northwestern University created a company called Narrative Science which uses AI to write stories about data. While at first Narrative Science wrote mainstream journalism stories, such as sports scores, it has since pivoted to work in the financial services industry where it writes financial reports -- essentially making sense out of a lot of data in only seconds. "The data is there, there’s a tradition of analytics, there are tremendous reporting needs, and they can write checks," he said.
Narrative Science's Quill platform provides financial reports to Forbes and a number of Wall Street firms. It also churns out more than a million accounts of Little League games every year.
A look at one of the more surprising human occupations to fall to the robot armies: sports and financial reporting.
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The machine is based on an off-the-shelf product called Quill from Narrative Science that generates narrative reports from feeds of the kinds of structured data that enterprises usually have on file, such as transaction data and performance data, explains Stuart Frankel, head of Narrative Science.
The company's software, which takes data and turns it into a narrative, started as an academic project at Northwestern University. It recently landed $10 million in funding and insurer USAA as a customer.
Computer reporting is simply a matter of teaching the program what data is interesting, and how to present it to the reader, explains Kris Hammond, chief scientist at Narrative Science.
“In much the same way a sportswriter can teach another writer how to become a sportswriter, or a financial writer can teach another writer how to become a financial writer, we can teach the machine to look for the kinds of patterns that are important, figure out what the audience needs to hear, and then turn that into impactful language," he says.