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Technology

AI is getting creative, literally

Professor Satoshi Sato of Nagoya University, in Aichi Prefecture, is working to help AI write novels.

TOKYO -- As artificial intelligence grows in leaps and bounds, it is increasingly being used in various fields, from financial services to writing novels.

     The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ on Feb. 18 launched a Q&A service through its official account on the chat app Line using the Japanese version of Watson, IBM's AI supercomputer. The new system accepts various questions, such as, "How can I start a new bank account?" A response will appear on the screen depending on the content.

     Takuma Nomoto, chief manager of the bank's Digital Innovation Division, gave the green light to introducing AI, after a team leader Hatsuo Fujito said AI now can understand more than 85% of what people say.

     The bank tested the supercomputer's ability to understand a range of questions. The recognition rate was just over 40% with a conventional method based on keywords, but with AI applied, it could understand about 90% of the questions by the time the service was launched. 

     Since the service started, the bank has handled some 15,000 inquiries a month, about 15 times more than usual. "AI enables us to communicate better with our customers," Nomoto said. Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ is now planning a service called "e Financial Planner," in which AI proposes financial products to customers, he added.

AI prose

AI is now capable of writing stories, too. When Satoshi Sato, a professor at Nagoya University's Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Graduate School of Engineering, hits some keys on his computer, a 400-character sentence appears on the screen.

     "Kunio became wide awake when evil cast a spell over a smartphone... He couldn't go back to sleep at all." It might not be Shakespeare, but it certainly could have been written by a human.

     Sato is a member of the Artificial Intelligence Short Story Writing Project, and its task is to get computers to write sentences. His team will prepare a storyline for a novel and provide AI with word candidates. The machine then combines these components to make sentences. 

     A total of 11 stories, including ones created by Sato's team, were sent to the third Hoshi Award for short stories hosted by Nikkei, without saying that they were written by AI. None of them won the prize, but some passed the first screening.

     Hitoshi Matsubara, president of the Japanese Society for Artificial Intelligence, launched the writing project about four years ago. He also is an architect of the event in which AI-based software beat the top player of shogi, Japanese chess. "I want AI to have sensibility and creativity, as well as logic required for Japanese chess," he said.

     When the project began, "Even my fellow researchers said AI will never be able to write a novel," Matsubara said. But budding AI novelists are popping up earlier than people expected. 

(Nikkei)

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