Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

MEDIAWATCH

Fans and players react online to Arsene Wegner's club departure

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

Syria alleged chemical attack: Gunfire delays deployment of weapons inspectors

Read more

FRANCE IN FOCUS

Cashing in on local French currencies

Read more

YOU ARE HERE

Life on the canals of northern France

Read more

INSIDE THE AMERICAS

What lies ahead for Cuba after the Castros?

Read more

#TECH 24

Discovering and harnessing the power of the sun

Read more

DOWN TO EARTH

Can France bid 'adieu' to popular weedkiller glyphosate?

Read more

#THE 51%

Harmful for your health: When gender bias affects medical diagnosis

Read more

REPORTERS

Africa’s donkeys slaughtered for Chinese ‘miracle elixir’

Read more

FOCUS

Our Focus programme brings you exclusive reports from around the world. From Monday to Friday at 7.45 am Paris time.

Latest update : 2010-03-30

The robot journalists are coming

Here is a movie review, entirely written and read by machine. A scary prospect? Yes, especially if you are a journalist, suddenly discovering that a robot could take your job. France 24 went to meet the two brains behind this fiendish plan: two professors at Northern University in Illinois, USA.

The future of TV News could look like this: two CGI characters giving the news. Their voice, computer generated, still sounds very artificial, but the text looks far more natural. But believe it or not, no human being was involved in the making of this movie review: it was entirely written and read by machine.

This project was born, among others, in the Intelligent Information Laboratory, at Northwestern University, co-directed by Larry Birnbaum and Kris Hammond.

The most advanced of the systems they work on, called Stats Monkey, uses baseball statistics to write recaps of games that are a little dry, but as worthy as any published by real sports reporters. A few days ago, Big Ten Network, a college sports TV network, started to publish those stories online. “That's all information that you would find in a story that any human being would write, says Chris Malcolm of Big Ten Network, except that this came faster and it came cleaner and it came much more effectively.”

After sports, Larry and Kris are going to go into financial and market stories, also a data-heavy field where numbers can be translated into texts. And that's only the beginning, says Kris Hammond: “The machine is going to cover those areas where human journalists aren't covering them, either because of manpower or financial issues, or audience issues. No-one is going to write a story, no traditional journalist is going to write a story that is going to be read by a hundred people, but if the machine is there, it can write that story and those hundred people are going to be happy”.

Still not really reassured, we step out of the lab and across the street to a symbol of old-fashioned journalism, the Chicago Tribune Tower. And here, much to our surprise, robot journalists are not always seen as enemies. “What they are doing in fact might be great for human journalists, says Bill Adee, editor of digital media at the daily, because they are then going to spend time on the things that matter”. In its long history, the Tribune has won 25 Pulitzer prizes. A feat that no robot journalist will ever achieve...or will they?

By Nathan KING , Emmanuel SAINT-MARTIN

COMMENT(S)

Archives

2018-04-20 Asia-pacific

Pashtun Protection Movement speaks up against extrajudicial killings

Some 30 million Pashtuns live in Pakistan - that's around 15% of the country's population. Partly because most Taliban members are Pashtun, the word "Pashtun" has, for many...

Read more

2018-04-19 Middle East

The citizens finding solutions to Lebanon's chronic waste crisis

For years, Lebanese citizens have been dealing with the consequences of bad waste management. This is especially visible in the capital Beirut and the heavily urbanised coastal...

Read more

2018-04-18 Americas

Video: A look back at the Castro years in Cuba

A new chapter is beginning in Cuba, with the country's National Assembly meeting to elect a new president. Raul Castro is stepping down from his position as head of state after...

Read more

2018-04-17 Europe

Andalusia, the gateway to Europe for cannabis

More than 70% of cannabis in circulation in Europe transits through Andalusia, in southern Spain. The drug is transported from Morocco on speedboats across the Strait of...

Read more

2018-04-16 Africa

Video: Embedded with French troops in eastern Mali

Just this weekend, seven French troops in Mali were injured and one UN peacekeeper killed in a four-hour rocket, mortar and car bomb attack on their camp at Timbuktu airport....

Read more