Sankalp Tomar, Assistant Producer, NDTV
Over the past decade the news industry has seen some major makeovers. The way news is presented and the way it is consumed by the people have changed a lot. Internet has so far played a very essential role in doing that and has made the news more reachable, convenient, and lightning fast of course. But still it has not reached the point where it is easy to gather news and publish. That process still needs a lot of leg work. However, the answer to this could be the inclusion of Artificial Intelligence (AI) into news environment. AI when eventually mass adopted will make the news smart and establish a seamless interaction between humans and machines. It will revolutionize the whole process from news gathering to news consumption at the very end. Right now it has even started to make a difference for some handful of press groups who have adopted this technology and paved the way for others to follow. One of these is Washington Post, which last year debuted their own AI system called Heliograf.
Hence the system is new and is going through much iteration, but so far has shown very promising results during its run on Rio Olympics and the 2016 US presidential elections. The way it works is that the Editors create a narrative template including key phrases, accounting for possible outcomes (in case of a follow-up story). After that Heliograf starts its work by identifying relevant data across platforms, matches it with phrases put in the template, then publishes different versions of the story on its own and it keeps doing that. Also, the system can even alert the reporters when it finds any anomaly in the data via Slack, so that they can investigate it. This way it will make the newsroom more efficient which will ultimately help journalists and editors to actually focus on the stories which require human thought and add the next layer to it. Now like Heliograf there are other AI systems as well which exist like Wibbitz of USA Today which basically condenses an article into a script, strings together images or videos from library, and even adds voice narration from a synthesized newscaster voice.
Another is News Tracer of Reuters which is an algorithmic prediction tool that helps journalists check the integrity of a tweet or article. And it does it by evaluating who is sharing it, how is it spreading across the network, and if nearby users have shared it on any platform to either deny or confirm it. So when all of these systems will be more advanced in the future they will transform the way we consume digital information now. It will help in identification of fake news on a mass scale, which nowadays is also taking advantage of AI tools and getting more realistic in the overall aspect. Like mimicking the voice, facial expressions, speech behavior of any world leader it is certainly not possible for humans to find any deviation in such scenarios.
It is a great leap forward in technological advancement and getting better at it every day. And that is what I believe could be the next battle or obstacle for media houses and governments as well. Now, apart from that I believe that one day it will even have the capability to identify and update any outdated articles whenever shared by anyone and identify emerging stories much faster and share them on its own. Basically AI could possibly be the key to the next gen real-time news. As it will help save that precious time and resource there would be some jobs which would become obsolete but perhaps give rise to a new kind of profession altogether. This will help in pouring in more money and grabbing eyeballs to whoever will adopt it. It will be very exciting to see in the future, as in what many ways it will transform the news experience for everyone.