Amazon Alexa skills to accept payments

Developers and businesses making skills for Amazon’s Alexa will soon be able to accept Amazon Pay and make purchases directly within voice apps from the Alexa Skills Store. The news was announced today during the Alexa State of the Union at AWS re:Invent in Las Vegas. Other Alexa news shared today includes plans to bring Alexa to Australia and New Zealand in early 2018 and adding $100 million to the Alexa Fund for international investment. Continue reading “Amazon Alexa skills to accept payments”

Amazon unveils DeepLens, a $249 camera for deep learning

Amazon Web Services today unveiled DeepLens, a wireless video camera made for the quick deployment of deep learning. The camera will cost $249 and is scheduled to ship for customers in the United States in April 2018.

DeepLens comes pre-loaded with AWS Greengrass for local computation and can operate with SageMaker, a new service to simplify the deployment of AI models, as well as popular open source AI services such as TensorFlow from Google and Caffe2 from Facebook, according to an AWS blog. Continue reading “Amazon unveils DeepLens, a $249 camera for deep learning”

Chatbots can save you from trying to diagnose that cough yourself

When a person feels sick, they might start deciding whether it seems serious enough to visit a doctor. However, things like having to get to the doctor’s office, long delays in the waiting room, and the potential difficulty in getting an appointment could discourage that individual from getting prompt treatment. A new AI-powered chatbot called Ada could be the perfect solution for that predicament. Let’s take a look at how Ada and other telemedicine offerings could change the future of health care and what downsides the technology has. Continue reading “Chatbots can save you from trying to diagnose that cough yourself”

Google gives developers more tools to make better voice apps

Google Assistant received some major upgrades in recent days, and today Google Assistant product manager Brad Abrams announced a series of changes to help developers make voice apps that interact with Google’s AI assistant, including ways to give them more expressive voices and send push notifications, as well as new subcategories for the Assistant’s App Directory.

One of the coolest new features coming to Google Assistant is something called Implicit Discovery. Instead of saying “OK Google, talk to Ray’s Auto Shop app” and then asking to schedule an appointment, Implicit Discovery will let you say “Book an appointment to fix my car” then offer an app recommendation. The same should apply if you say “I need to book a flight” to summon something like the Kayak app or say “I need a ride” to interact with Uber or Lyft.

Implicit Discovery may seem simple, but it’s going after one of the biggest challenges for AI assistants, which is: Without a visual interface, how does a user figure out how to get things done or remember the names of favorite or useful apps? Implicit Discovery seems to be an effort to tackle this. It’s also a feature already available in Amazon’s Alexa.

Another feature added today to improve discovery of third-party apps is subcategories in the App Directory, so instead of just being listed in the Food and Drink category, apps can be slated into subcategories like “Order Food” and “View a Menu.”

The App Directory was first introduced at the I/O developer conference this spring.

Other changes on the way for the App Directory include badges to indicate if a voice app is family friendly and support for third-party apps in languages beyond English. Until today, Google’s voice apps were only available for English speakers in the United States, Canada, Great Britain, and Australia. Voice apps will soon be available in Portuguese in Brazil, English in India, and Spanish in the U.S., Mexico, and Spain.

Google announced today that developers in the United Kingdom can begin to make apps that can carry out transactions, a feature that until now was exclusive to the U.S. The Google Payment API expanded to include Google Assistant users in the U.S. in May.

A series of new APIs has also been rolled out, including one that gives apps the ability to send push notifications, first over the phone and in the future with voice or auditory sounds through a Google Home smart speaker. Alexa notifications first launched in September.

An API to link an account to an app for personalized results, and another that gives developers the ability to transfer a conversation from a smart speaker to a smartphone also launched today.

Beyond push notifications, voice apps can now deliver daily updates or notifications about certain kinds of content.

The Actions on Google platform for the creation of voice apps by third-party developers first became available roughly a year ago, in December 2016. Since then, hundreds of voice apps have been made available to do a range of things, from playing ambient sounds like crashing waves to offering local deals for a pizza from Domino’s.

It’s been a pretty busy week for Google’s intelligent assistant. On Monday, Google announced that Home speakers can now be used as an intercom system. The Google Broadcast feature, first announced at the Made by Google hardware event last month, allows you to deliver a message through all your Google Home devices. The app also gained the ability to deliver music and movie recommendations from streaming services and control sound by adjusting things like bass and treble, a clear plus for prospective owners of Google Home Max, which is scheduled to hit store shelves next month.

Taken together, the announcements made today will give voice apps the ability to be a much more vocal, vital part of the Google Assistant experience, and continue to evolve the ecosystem surrounding Google’s AI assistant.

This time last year, Google Assistant was only available in the Allo chat app. Today you can speak to Google in Android TVs, three Google Home smart speakers, Android smartphones, the Pixel Chromebook, and Pixel Buds, the first headphones made by Google that began to roll out last week. Support for Google Assistant in tablets using Android is also reportedly on the way.

Don’t Worry About People Stealing Your Ideas

Chester Carlson worked on his idea for years. It was tough, messy work and when his wife tired of the putrid smells, sulfur fires and occasional explosions emanating from the kitchen, his experiments were exiled to a second floor apartment in a house his mother-in-law owned. It took years, but he came finally up with a working prototype. He tried to sell his machine to the great corporations of the day, including GE, RCA and IBM, but to no avail. Eventually, he teamed up with the Haloid Corporation, which eventually changed its name to Xerox and in 1959, more than 20 years after Carlson began his quest, it launched the 914 copier and became one of America’s leading corporations. “Don’t worry about people stealing your ideas,” said the computing pioneer Howard Aiken. “If your ideas are any good, you’ll have to ram them down people’s throats.” The truth is that innovation needs combination and few ideas can make much of an impact alone. So if you want your ideas to amount to anything, you’re usually better off sharing them. Continue reading “Don’t Worry About People Stealing Your Ideas”

Frankfurt ’17: Innovation Meets Imagination

Jane Chun, Laura Kain, and Luisa Beguiristain take in the evening sights in Frankfurt.

Every year the Frankfurt Book Fair provides a (massive) space for publishers to display their literary riches and discuss new and ongoing trends and issues facing the industry. MS in Publishing: Digital and Print Media students Luisa Beguiristain, Jane Chun, and Laura Kain traveled excitedly to Frankfurt recently, ready to help out at the largest book fair in the world. The students were assigned to specific roles at the fair, allowing them to interact with a variety of professionals and better understand the world of publishing. Read on for their insights from Frankfurt: Continue reading “Frankfurt ’17: Innovation Meets Imagination”

TLDR: The voice interface is the future of news and media

By Nieman Lab (these highlights provided for you by Annotote)

The future of news is humans talking to machines #voice interface #no UI #end-to-end audio

AI-driven voice interfaces, such as Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s Home and Assistant, Microsoft’s Cortana, and Apple’s upcoming HomePod [are] potentially bigger than the impact of the iPhone. In fact, I’d describe these smart speakers and the associated AI and machine learning that they’ll interface with as the huge burning platform the news industry doesn’t even know it’s standing on. Continue reading “TLDR: The voice interface is the future of news and media”

Upcoming Events in Digital Media: August 21 Edition

Each week, MediaShift posts an ongoing list of upcoming events in the digital media and journalism world. These will be a mix of MediaShift-produced events and other events. If we’re missing any major events, or you’d like to pay to promote your event in the “featured event” spot of our weekly post, please contact Mark Glaser at mark [at] mediashift [dot] org. Any non-MediaShift events in the “featured event” slot are paid placements. Also, be sure to sign up for our events email newsletter to get notifications about future MediaShift events. Note: Event descriptions are excerpts, edited for length and clarity.

Featured Event

Journalism School Hackathon at University of North Texas
October 20-22, 2017
Denton, Texas

MediaShift is producing our fifth Journalism School Hackathon on the weekend of October 20-22, 2017, co-produced by the Mayborn School of Journalism at the University of North Texas (near Dallas-Fort Worth). We’re convening a group of top students (graduates and undergraduates), faculty and professionals for the weekend Hackathon, with a real-world mission of creating startups in the sports and health areas. Students will have a chance to collaborate on diverse teams of students with faculty and pro facilitators.

Get more info and register here!

Students can apply for Travel Scholarships (up to $500) here!


Hack the Gender Gap: Women’s Hackathon on Diversifying AI at WVU
November 9-11, 2017
Morgantown, WV

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has a diversity problem. The authors of algorithms that drive the majority of our every day interactivity, participation and decision making do not adequately represent gender, racial or economic diversity they intend to serve. That’s why MediaShift and the Reed College of Media at West Virginia University will convene college-age women from around the country to envision their role and influence in diversifying the emerging artificial intelligence market and conceptualize more inclusive AI entrepreneurial opportunities to meet the future needs of a diverse society.

Get more info and register here!



Content Marketing World Conference and Expo
September 5–8, 2017
Cleveland, OH
One of the largest content marketing conferences out here, CMW is a great place to connect with the top media companies and creators from around the world. It’s basically the must-attend event for professionals working in media and content creation for brands and news agencies. Plus, the schedule is full of interesting events like video marketing workshops, lessons in brand storytelling, and how to use data to drive your video content creation.
More information and registration here.

Digital Media Strategies USA
Sept. 6-8, 2017
New York City
Digital Media Strategies USA brings together leading CEOs, senior executives and innovators from newspapers, magazines, B2B publishers, broadcasters and digital media businesses both new and old, big and small, as well as brands and agencies. All speakers are briefed to share honestly on their challenges and how they are addressing them, offering insights, war stories, data and hard lessons from their experience.
More information and registration here.

Excellence in Journalism 2017
Sept. 7-9, 2017
Anaheim, Calif.
The Society of Professional Journalists, the Radio Television Digital News Association, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and the Native American Journalists Association hosts their annual convention, welcoming all professionals in journalism, including: newsroom decision makers, leaders, station managers, reporters, producers, content managers, editors, freelancers and educators — people who are looking to implement new technologies, software products and journalism best practices in their newsrooms.
More information and registration here.

HippoCamp Creative Nonfiction Conference
Sept. 8-10, 2017
Lancaster, Pa.
Hippocampus Magazine’s goal is to entertain, educate and engage writers and readers of creative nonfiction. HippoCamp is an extension of our three-fold mission. This three-day creative writing conference event features 40+ notable speakers, engaging sessions in four tracks, interactive panels, readings, social activities, networking opportunities and optional, intimate pre-conference workshops in Lancaster, Pa., a city rich in history, arts and culture. All of this, plus meals and snacks, bundled into a great, comprehensive conference rate.
More information and registration here.

The Content Strategy Innovation Summit
September 11–12, 2017
San Francisco, CA
The summit’s speakers this year include content strategy execs from Facebook, Forbes, Disney, and more. Attendees will learn how to maximize their use of video online, hear from panels on strategy, and more that will help you innovate your content marketing.
More information and registration here.

Social Media Week
September 11–15, 2017
London, UK
Professionals attending SMW are at the intersection of media, technology, and marketing, creating plenty of networking opportunities. The theme this year is “Language and the Machine,” and attendees will hear from the biggest social media companies and learn about the latest trends in video, virtual reality, visual storytelling, and more.
More information and registration here.

Future of Journalism Conference
Sept. 14-15, 2017
Cardiff, UK
The sixth biennial Conference will address the theme of “Journalism in a post-truth age?” including, but not limited to, challenges to the authority of legacy news institutions and the ideals of objectivity, the increasing role of social media in shaping news consumption, and the associated emergence of “filter bubbles” and “echo chambers,” and the emergence of “fake news.”
More information and registration here.

The IBC Conference:
September 14–19, 2017
Amsterdam, Netherlands
IBC 2017 is a hotspot for media, entertainment, and technology professionals. The programme includes panels and sessions on the future of virtual reality, how broadcast TV is transforming, and how AI is driving innovation in media.
More information and registration here.

Digiday Publishing Summit
September 25–27, 2017
Key Biscayne, FL
This year, the summit is tackling the challenges that face digital media publishers, such as adapting to new technology and earning audience trust. Speakers include execs from top media companies, who will address topics like how to win at video, why publishers should think of themselves as tech companies, and how to master social content marketing.
More information and registration here.

Society for Features Journalism National Conference
Sept. 27-30, 2017
Kansas, Mo.
The Society for Features Journalism promotes the craft of writing and innovation in lifestyle, arts and entertainment journalism.
More information and registration here.

Society of Environmental Journalists 27th Annual Conference: Rivers of Change
Hosted and sponsored by The University of Pittsburgh/Swanson School of Engineering, the conference will blend a local, post-industrial focus on the Pittsburgh region with a strong current of national and global environmental issues. And this year there will be added emphasis on environmental justice, with an opening plenary at the August Wilson Center for African American Culture and a complementary track that spans the conference.
More information and registration here.


Oct. 5-7, 2017
Washington, D.C.
ONA17 brings together some of the most innovative minds in digital media, including journalists, media executives, developers, entrepreneurs, students and educators.
More information and registration here.

Future of Storytelling Festival
Oct. 6-9, 2017
New York City
The FoST Festival is an immersive storytelling festival that puts you at the center of the action. Delight in interactive, multi-sensory exhibits, take in awe-inspiring live performances, try out cutting-edge new technologies, and learn from some of the smartest people from the worlds of entertainment, marketing, and technology about where storytelling is headed in the future.
More information and registration here.

International Conference on Journalism and Mass Communication
Oct. 9-10, 2017
The conference theme is “Journalism, Media and Mass Communication in the Age of Information”: Mass media is seen in nearly every facet of our daily lives and technology is constantly altering the way we live. The technology boom that has been felt around the world has forever changed communication as we know it and has greatly impacted our personal and professional lives. Presently, the media as a vehicle of social change influence appearance, language, family, status, politics, and religion.
More information and registration here.

The Folio Show
October 9–11, 2017
New York, NY
The Folio Show is a great place to connect with magazine and digital media executives and learn from panels on monetizing video, growth-hacking image based social media, managing content production, and more. There are five different conference tracks to help you focus on the most important sessions: content, marketing, events, sales, and ads and operations.
More information and registration here.

FIPP World Congress
Oct. 9-11, 2017
The FIPP World Congress is the largest and most high profile media event in the world. Bringing together the world’s leading multi-platform media publishers and industry suppliers, this global event is an opportunity to explore the latest trends and solutions in the industry, amongst an unrivalled delegate list and cutting edge suppliers.
More information and registration here.

APME’s NewsTrain Digital-Skills Workshops: Social, Data, Mobile, Video and More
Oct. 14, 2017, outside Boston, Mass.
Oct. 21, 2017, suburban Columbus, Ohio
Nov. 11, 2017, Seattle
For $75, early-bird registrants get a full Saturday of digital training at APME’s three NewsTrain workshops this fall. Topics include social reporting and branding, data-driven enterprise, mobile storytelling and newsgathering, and smartphone video.
More information and registration for New England, Columbus or Seattle NewsTrains here.

Digital Media North America Conference
Oct. 19-20, 2017
This two-day event, organized jointly by WAN-IFRA and the News Media Alliance (NMA), will provide a unique opportunity for North American news media executives to hear and discuss digital revenue strategy from the world’s most advanced media companies.
More information and registration here.

Media Tech Summit
October 26, 2017
New York, NY
The summit’s 2017 theme is “Harnessing the Power of Digital Engagement.” While this year’s agenda and speakers haven’t been announced yet, last year’s speakers included top marketing executives from Facebook, Time Warner, NBC Universal, and more. As a private forum, this hot-ticket event requires an invitation to register.
More information and registration here.

World Conference of Science Journalists
Oct. 26-30, 2017
The 10th World Conference of Science Journalists will bring together 1,200–1,400 professionals dedicated to engaging, incisive, accurate, and high-quality science journalism.
More information and registration here.

Oct. 27-29, 2017
The Journalism & Women Symposium will host its Conference and Mentoring Project (CAMP), which offers professional development, training, inspiring speakers and an opportunity to support networking, mentoring and friendship among women in journalism.
More information and registration here.

Mozilla Festival
Oct. 27-29, 2017
The world’s leading festival for the open Internet movement.
More information and registration here.


Digiday Video Anywhere
November 1–3, 2017
Laguna Niguel, CA
This Digiday summit will explore how publishers are tackling emerging challenges in digital video production and how to build business models that don’t just capture viewership, but also revenue.
More information and registration here.

News XChange:
November 15–16, 2017
Amsterdam, Netherlands
The two-day conference brings together hundreds of media executives from all around the world. The conference features prominent guest speakers and panel discussions that explore the biggest challenges currently facing journalism.
More information and registration here.

Global Investigative Journalism Conference
Nov. 16-19, 2017
GIJC17 will take your stories to the world and put global resources at your fingertips, with Pulitzer winners, digital detectives and top data journalism trainers.
More information and registration here.

Bianca Fortis is the associate editor at MediaShift, an independent journalist and social media consultant. She is a founding member of the Transborder Media storytelling collective. Follow her on Twitter @biancafortis.

The post Upcoming Events in Digital Media: August 21 Edition appeared first on MediaShift.

Intelligent assistants vs. chatbots: Which is best for your biz? (VB Live)

Looking to implement an intelligent assistant or chatbot? Don’t miss our latest VB Live event, where we tap a panel of developers with long-term, hands-on experience in selecting the right digital engagement solution, planning a strategy, and seeing results. Register now!

Register for free right here.

The future is here; it’s just not evenly distributed – yet. As chatbots and intelligent assistants get more sophisticated and use cases start piling up, they’re finally moving out of the early adopter phase and into the need-to-have territory for businesses.

A recent study shows that consumers are ready for them, if they’re done right. It revealed that 40 percent of consumers would make a purchase from a chatbot interface, and nearly 60 percent of would engage with a chatbot especially if it meant receiving coupons or special offers.

But the buzz surrounding these tools has done a lot to obscure what they actually are, what they can do for your company, and how you can implement one successfully, and not egregiously.

The difference

Today’s chatbots and virtual assistants have evolved past basic logic with the integration of back-end artificial intelligence. It helps to create experiences that are more conversational while providing a lot more utility for the end user.

Chatbots are generally focused on on a single purpose, whether it’s in ecommerce as a shopping agent, first-level customer service, or customer engagement and entertainment. With less complicated machine learning algorithms and leaner architecture, they require less infrastructure and are far quicker to build, deploy, and implement than an AI-powered virtual assistant, letting you automate a single business function with a smaller investment.

Intelligent assistants can technically be chatbots if they interact with you through a conversational interface such as Slack or Facebook Messenger, but they’re powered by more advanced cognitive computing technologies such as advancements in natural language processing, complex machine learning, and AI. They can continuously learn from consumer interaction to become better at predicting end users’ needs, and can potentially understand and carry out multi-step requests and perform more complex tasks such as making a hotel or plane reservation.

The measure of success

The key measure of success of either is how much value the chatbot or assistant adds. No user is impressed by a shiny new feature that doesn’t do anything to add value to their experience — which makes your company breathlessly bandwagony, rather than technologically sophisticated.

A chatbot or virtual assistant should either be performing a task a person would find hard to do themselves, or saving your user time by performing tasks that would take them a long while to accomplish. Just think about the times you’ve been forced into a voice recognition maze with no “hit zero for an operator” option. And how very, very close you probably came to throwing your phone out the window.

Do you really need one?

You can actually hurt your business if you don’t think critically about if your brand really will benefit from the power of chatbots or virtual assistants — or if you’re just riding a trend. Plus, if it’s implemented without a plan, the execution is going to provide actual pain and frustration to your consumer (think about that endless voice tree).

So learn how to get those customers on board, plus which platform you need and how to launch, when you join our latest VB Live event!

Don’t miss out!

Register now.

In this webinar, you’ll:

  • Understand the messaging platforms of the future
  • Learn which platforms people are using — and why
  • Measure the success of your chatbot through best-practice KPIs
  • Create personalized interaction between your organization and your customers


  • Amir Shevat, Director of Developer Relations, Slack
  • Stewart Rogers, Director of Marketing Technology, VB
  • Rachael Brownell, Moderator, VB

Watch the livestream of the 2017 Microsoft Research Faculty Summit—The Edge of AI

2017 Microsoft Research Faculty Summit

By Evelyne Viegas, Program Co-Chair of Faculty Summit and Director, Microsoft

We are looking forward to another informative Microsoft Research Faculty Summit (July 17-18, 2017) where this year’s theme is The Edge of AI. The event will consist of keynotes, sessions, panels, and showcased technologies. The summit brings together thought leaders and researchers from a broad range of disciplines including computer science, social sciences, human design and interactions, and policy. Together we will highlight some of the key challenges posed by artificial intelligence, and will identify the next generation of approaches, techniques, and tools that will be needed to develop AI to solve the world’s most pressing challenges.

Microsoft AI researchers are striving to create intelligent machines that complement human reasoning, and amplify human ingenuity with intelligent technology. At the core, is the ability to harness the explosion of digital data and computational power with advanced algorithms that extend the ability for machines to learn, reason, sense and understand—enabling collaborative and natural interactions between machines and humans.

If you aren’t registered to attend in person, you still have an opportunity to watch our keynotes, speakers and, back by popular demand, our special Research in Focus interview segments streamed live beginning July 17, 2017 at 8:30 AM Pacific Time (UTC-7).

Here are just a few highlights of what will be streamed:

  • Opening: AI in the Open World with Eric Horvitz, Microsoft, Technical Fellow and Managing Director
  • Keynote: Smart Enough to Work With Us? Foundations and Challenges for Teamwork-Enabled AI Systems, with Barbara Grosz, Harvard University
  • Research in Focus: Deep Learning Research and the Future of AI, with Yoshua Bengio, University of Montréal
  • Research in Focus: Conversational Agents, with Alan Ritter, Ohio State University, Lucy Vanderwende, Microsoft, Senior Researcher and Jason Williams, Microsoft, Principal Researcher
  • Fireside Chat with Harry Shum, Microsoft, Executive Vice President, and Christopher Bishop, Microsoft, Technical Fellow and Managing Director

Visit for more information and the full virtual event agenda!

We are looking forward to your attendance whether you are registered to attend in-person or virtually.

Learn more

The post Watch the livestream of the 2017 Microsoft Research Faculty Summit—The Edge of AI appeared first on Microsoft Research.

Smarter Journalism: The Dark Side of Artificial Intelligence in the Newsroom

Can the reality of Artificial Intelligence live up to the extensive hype surrounding its development?

Artificial Intelligence (AI) in newsrooms has a lot of potential for smarter journalism. Yet, as newsrooms increasingly experiment with new technologies, such as machine learning and natural language processing, they also run into practical and ethical challenges. Exploring some of these issues was the motivation behind a recent conference at Columbia University in New York.

When AI fails

Success is built on failed experiments and these are certainly part of the current AI experience. Marc Lavallee, head of the Research and Development team at the New York Times, recalled one recent AI experiment that did not go according to plan.

Speaking on the panel “AI in the Newsroom: Technology and Practical Applications” Lavellee described how his team trained a computer vision programme to recognise members of Congress at the inauguration of President Donald Trump. “For some reason,” Lavallee said, “[the programme] thought all the old white dudes in the audience looked like (U.S. Senator) Al Franken.” In light of such experiences, he added, “We’re approaching this with a healthy dose of scepticism.”

Can the reality of AI live up to the hype?

Other panellists regretted that given the current hype around AI powered technology, the actual applications can’t keep up with these expectations. Sasha Koren, editorial leader of the Guardian’s Mobile Innovation Lab, noted that she found chatbots an “underwhelming experience.” Despite all their promises “that they will chat with you as if they are human,” she said, all they are “really doing is querying a database.”

As AI in the newsroom gains more attention, so does the influence of commercial companies trying to sell tailored products to newsrooms. Meredith Whittaker, who leads the Google Open Source Research group and is a co-founder of AINow, detected a tendency to “naturalize the technology,” so as to make it seem inevitable, when in fact it’s always designed by people. The actual capabilities of these programmes may not be always clear, especially as some developers are unfamiliar with the particular characteristics and standards of journalism.

What’s missing in this conversation, Whittaker said, was the question of whether, and to what extent claims by commercial companies live up to their promises. That’s of concern because these AI developers are salespeople “who don’t give us access to the algorithm, who legally and for a number of good reasons can’t give us access to the data, who assume that our input data matches whatever the data they used to train these algorithms and who are making claims about the efficacy in a field they may or may not understand…”

Artificial Intelligence and ethics

The ethical questions around AI took centre stage at the panel “Exploring the Ethics of AI Powered Products.” Some of the panellists touched on the ethical challenges at the core of AI applications—developing abstract measurements for real life problems. “We have a lot of things that we’d like to measure,” said Jerry Talton of Slack.

Talton mentioned the example of Slack trying to build predictive models that help important pieces rise to the top of online conversations between co-workers. But, he added, as predictive models can only offer correlations, the ethical challenge lies in “figuring out that gap between the things that we can actually predict and what we’re using those things as proxies for.” Implicit is the danger that predictive models give a false security of what piece of information is important.

This sentiment was echoed by Angela Bassa, of iRobot. “Math doesn’t care,” she said, indicating that mathematical models are not biased in any particular way. What makes a difference, however, is how data is being gathered. Bassa pointed out the false allure of clean data. “We’d like to imagine that it gets collected in these hermetically sealed, beautiful ways where you have these researchers in hazmat suits going into the field and collecting. That’s not how it works.”

The limitations of AI

Recognising limitations of AI was a general theme in this panel discussion. Madeleine Elish, a researcher at Columbia University and Data&Society, emphasised that just because AI technology is automating certain tasks, it should not be considered fully autonomous.

“It’s important to realise that right now deployed AI … is automating a task but in a very particularly prescribed domain.” This becomes an ethical question, she added, “when we start to assign too much power to the idea of a software program we forget all the kinds of agencies humans have over the different aspects that go into building these systems.”

Do you have any examples of artificial intelligence in the newsroom? Please share them with the EJO via comments or our Facebook page.


This article is the second in the EJO series on artificial intelligence in the newsroom. You may also be interested in reading: Smarter Journalism, Artificial Intelligence in the Newsroom

Image: Binary damage code, Markus Spiske, Flickr CC licence


The post Smarter Journalism: The Dark Side of Artificial Intelligence in the Newsroom appeared first on European Journalism Observatory – EJO.

What are the ethics of using AI for journalism? A panel at Columbia tried to tackle that question

Journalism is becoming increasingly automated. From the Associated Press using machine learning to write stories to The New York Times’ plans to automate its comment moderation, outlets continue to use artificial intelligence to try and streamline their processes or make them more efficient.

But what are the ethical considerations of AI? How can journalists legally acquire the data they need? What types of data should news orgs be storing? How transparent do outlets need to be about the algorithms they use?

These were some of the questions posed Tuesday at a panel discussion held by the Tow Center for Digital Journalism and the Brown Institute for Media Innovation at Columbia University that tried to address these questions about the ethics of AI powered journalism products.

Tools such as machine learning or natural language processing require vast amounts of data to learn to behave like a human, and NYU law professor Amanda Levendowski listed a series of considerations that must be thought about when trying to access data to perform these tasks.

“What does it mean for a journalist to obtain data both legally and ethically? Just because data is publicly available does not necessarily mean that it’s legally available, and it certainly doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily ethically available,” she said. “There’s a lot of different questions about what public means — especially online. Does it make a difference if you show it to a large group of people or small group of people? What does it mean when you feel comfortable disclosing personal information on a dating website versus your public Twitter account versus a LinkedIn profile? Or if you choose to make all of those private, what does it meant to disclose that information?”

For example, Levendowski highlighted the fact that many machine learning algorithms were trained on a cache of 1.6 million emails from Enron that were released by the federal government in the early 2000s. Companies are risk averse, she said, and they prefer to use publicly available data sets, such as the Enron emails or Wikipedia, but those datasets can produce biases.

“But when you think about how people use language using a dataset by oil and gas guys in Houston who were convicted of fraud, there are a lot of biases that are going to be baked into that data set that are being handed down and not just imitated by machines, but sometimes amplified because of the scale, or perpetuated, and so much so that now, even though so many machine learning algorithms have been trained or touched by this data set, there are entire research papers dedicated to exploring the gender-race power biases that are baked into this data set.”

The whole panel featured speakers such as John Keefe, the head of Quartz’s bot studio; BuzzFeed data scientist Gilad Lotan; iRobot director of data science Angela Bassa; Slack’s Jerry Talton, Columbia’s Madeleine Clare Elish, and (soon-to-be Northwestern professor) Nick Diakopoulos. The full video of the panel (and the rest of the day’s program) is available here and is embedded above; the panel starts about eight minutes in.

Artificial intelligence can’t solve every problem in the media, but it can take care of these

Machine learning and Artificial Intelligence are slowly but surely getting ahead in some newsrooms around the world, but how are they effectively shaping the life of one of the biggest news agencies in the world?

Francesco Marconi, Manager of Strategy and Corporate Development at the Associated Press in New York focuses on media strategy in Virtual Reality, Artificial Intelligence and Data. He will be part of the panel ‘It’s raining bots: Four best practices to make the most of automation’ with co-panelists David Alandete, Managing Editor of El País, Robert Unsworth from News Republic, with moderator Noriko Tagikuchi of, discussing the involvement of machine learning in personalised news, at the GEN Summit 2017 in Vienna, 21–23 June.

©Associated Press

How do you see Artificial intelligence and immersive technologies shape the future of news?

Streamlining workflows, taking out grunt work, crunching more data, digging out insights and generating additional outputs are just a few of the mega-wins that have resulted from putting smart machines to work in the service of journalism.

Artificial intelligence can enable journalists to analyse data; identify patterns, trends and actionable insights from multiple sources; see things that the naked eye can’t see; turn data and spoken words into text; text into audio and video; understand sentiment; analyse scenes for objects, faces, text or colours — and more.

Broadly speaking, AI promises to reap many big rewards for journalism in the years to come. Greater speed, accuracy, scale and diversity of coverage are just some of the results media organisations are already seeing.

A robotic camera used by The Associated Press to capture unique images from angles not normally seen by the public.

How will immersive technologies and AI affect a publication’s business model or strategy?

These technologies are opening up new territories and changing journalism in ways no one might have predicted even a few years ago. And they arrive at a time when journalists and media companies are searching for new solutions to the challenges that the digital revolution has imposed on the news business. Not only is it imperative to save time and money in an era of shifting economics, but at the same time, you need to find ways to keep pace with the growing scale and scope of the news itself.

However, Artificial intelligence can’t solve every problem. As the technology evolves, it will certainly allow for more precise analyses, but there will always be challenges the technology can’t overcome.

Francesco Marconi

What type of automation can be used optimally in a newsroom? Is there any resistance in adopting these?

AI enables the automation of repetitive tasks such as writing news articles that follow a very “templated” structure. The Associated Press is currently automating earning reports as well as sports articles. We have increased our output by 10x and reduced the error rate.

AI can also enable journalists to sift through large corpuses of data, text, images and videos. We recently teamed up with MIT to analyse twitter data pertaining to the American public’s response to US President Donald Trump.

From the Associated Press

In addition to increasing news coverage (automation) and extract hidden insights from data (augmentation), AI can improve processes such as automatically tag photos, generate captions for videos and even deploy AI powered cameras to capture angles not easily available to journalists (which AP did during the Olympics)

This new wave of technological innovation is no different than any other that has come before it. Success still relies on how human journalists implement these new tools. Artificial intelligence is man-made, meaning that all the ethical, editorial and economic influences considered when producing traditional news content still apply in this new age of augmented journalism.

To best leverage and responsibly use artificial intelligence in news, the first step is to understand the technology itself.

How best to use machine learning and automation for news?

Tip 1: Be aware that when technology changes, journalism doesn’t. Artificial intelligence can help augment journalism, but it will never replace journalism. AI might aid in the reporting process, but journalists will always need to put the pieces together and construct a digestible, creative narrative.

Tip 2: Journalists can best leverage AI once they understand the technology. Artificial intelligence is complicated, and there are many ways it can be implemented in a newsroom, but just like any other technology, the more you know about a tool, the more effectively you can use it.

Tip 3: There are ethical considerations inherent in journalism’s use of AI. Again, just because the tools of journalism change, that doesn’t mean the rules of journalism change. As AI works its way into newsrooms, it is important to adhere to our existing standards and ethics.

What trends do you see arise in new technologies for journalism?

These are some of the key trends (these are not in any rank order):

  • Trend 1: Conversational interfaces and distribution of news across voice enabled devices such as Amazon Alexa and Google Home.
  • Trend 2: Utilise blockchain technology to protect and monitor digital content and intellectual property.
  • Trend 3: Messaging bots and automated push alerts to engage readers on platforms such as Whatsapp and Facebook messenger
  • Trend 4: Over the top video and distribution to new platforms such as Netflix, HBO, Hulu and other major video portals.
  • Trend 5: Emergence of micro-payments and new paid subscription models as a key monetisation strategy.
A VR experience by the Associated Press

What are the most exciting or outstanding VR/MR/AR or AI news projects or initiatives you have seen recently?

Cortico is a nonprofit in collaboration with the MIT Media Lab that applies artificial intelligence and media analytics to map and analyse the public sphere.

In AI, the Associated Press collaborated with Cortico, a media analytics nonprofit recently launched from the Laboratory for Social Machines at the MIT Media Lab, to analyse a large dataset of tweets related to the first 100 days of the new administration using machine learning techniques. The result of this collaboration between AP journalism and MIT data scientists proved both fascinating and insightful, ultimately allowing for a better understanding of President Trump’s activities on Twitter and the subsequent public response to those activities.

In VR, we recently produced an immersive experience exploring invasive species including specific types of insects, venomous fish and reptiles. This virtual reality experience is hosted on the web and enables participants to explore how non-native species cost the world hundreds of billions of dollars a year. This story also explores how creative, high tech techniques may finally be turning the tide, however, with tools like underwater tasers, electrified nets and robots that zap and vacuum up venomous lionfish.

About Francesco Marconi

Francesco Marconi is AP’s strategy manager and co-lead on automation and AI. He is also a fellow at Columbia’s Tow Center and an affiliate researcher at MIT Media Lab. He will be publishing his new book, Live Like Fiction, this July by Frontier Press. The book is a guide about finding purpose and inspiration through storytelling.

Artificial intelligence can’t solve every problem in the media, but it can take care of these was originally published in Global Editors Network on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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