Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

MEDIAWATCH

France's Plan to Tackle Racism

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

Marine Le Pen and Thomas Piketty in Time magazine's power list; EU takes on Google; Gunter Grass dies (part 2)

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

Deadly Crossing: Migrants desperate to reach Europe; Abadi in Washington (part 1)

Read more

EYE ON AFRICA

Xenophobic attacks in South Africa: anti-violence marches and anti immigration protest

Read more

FRANCE IN FOCUS

French PM outlines action plan against racism, anti-Semitism

Read more

REPORTERS

Turkey’s hidden Armenians search for stolen identity

Read more

REVISITED

Families of slain Marikana miners still demanding justice

Read more

#TECH 24

Europe vs. Google: EU accuses search giant of market dominance abuse

Read more

#THE 51%

Women in America: Land of the free, home to the less-paid

Read more

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

FOCUS

FOCUS

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

2015-04-17 USA

The state of cannabis in Colorado

In the United States, cannabis remains illegal at the federal level, but 24 states have a medical cannabis programme. Some have gone even further, such as Colorado, the first...

Read more

2015-04-16 Vietnam

Vietnam War victim brings Agent Orange makers to court

40 years after the end of the Vietnam War, a Franco-Vietnamese woman is taking some of America's most powerful chemicals companies to court in France. She accuses them of having...

Read more

2015-04-14 Burma

Video: The new face of Burma's opposition

Many observers fear that Burma's much-lauded "democratic transition" is stalling as the country staggers towards elections due in November. Pro-democracy groups are increasingly...

Read more

2015-04-15 Germany

Berlin tackles shortage of skilled labour

Germany has a shortage of skilled labour, a problem set to intensify. The population is ageing and the job market will have a dearth of almost 7 million people over the next 10...

Read more

2015-04-13 France

Is France's new surveillance bill a French Patriot Act?

French lawmakers are examining a new bill aimed at preventing further terror attacks like those that struck Paris in January. While supporters of the bill say it is a crucial...

Read more