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OM in the News: The Rise of the Robot Reporter

May 4, 2012

Here is an application of service technology that we missed in Chapter 7:  Wired Magazine (May, 2012) presents a fascinating tale of how artificial intelligence is taking a prominent role in sports and financial news reporting.

Consider this : Every 30 seconds or so, the algorithmic bull pen of Chicago’s Narrative Science extrudes a story whose very byline is a question of philosophical inquiry. The computer-written product could be a  second-half update of a Big Ten basketball contest, a preview of a corporate earnings statement, or a summary of the presidential horse race. The articles run on the websites of  publishers like Forbes, as well as other  media powers (many of which are keeping their identities private).

And the articles don’t read like robots wrote them: ”  Friona fell 10-8 to Boys Ranch in five innings on Monday at Friona despite racking up seven hits and eight runs. Friona was led by a flawless day at the dish by Hunter Sundre, who went 2-2 against Boys Ranch pitching. Sundre singled in the third inning and tripled in the fourth inning … Friona piled up the steals, swiping eight bags in all …”

It may not win a Pulitzer, but the grandparents of a Little Leaguer would welcome this game summary—available on the web even before the two teams finished shaking hands. Narrative Science’s algorithms built the article using pitch-by-pitch game data that parents entered into an iPhone app called GameChanger. Last year the software produced nearly 400,000 accounts of Little League games. This year that number is expected to top 1.5 million and Narrative’s CEO predicts that  more than 90% of news would be written by computers in 15 years. He also believes that as Narrative Science grows, its stories will go higher up the journalism food chain—from commodity news to explanatory journalism and, ultimately, detailed long-form articles.

Discussion questions:

1. Why is AI of interest to OM managers?

2. How could this be used beyond newspapers and wire services?

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