Artificial intelligence in the newsroom

Machines that are able to ask questions and understand vocal answers while also monitoring facial expressions

Can a robot interview someone and imitate the inquisitive curiosity of a journalist? Despite the paradox, this question deserves an answer. Especially, if we broaden the field to include chatbots. The application of artificial intelligence to relations with users allows companies to automate most of their call center operations by managing relationships with remote users through both written dialogue (ie, emails or instant messaging) and phone calls. While in the various ways of applying robotics there are examples of machines that are capable of understanding and analyzing answers to a series of questions while simultaneously monitoring both facial expression and the tone of the voice of the interviewee. And this occurs in selecting candidates in job interviews rather than in the newsroom.

A fairly interesting case is that concerning Matlda, a 30 centimeter-tall robot with the reassuring look of a toy, but that is able to hold a candidate for 25 minutes, highlighting their skills and talents, in a fully automated job interview. Matlda - a product developed by the Research Center for Computers, Communication and Social Innovation at the La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia - compares candidates at the end of the interviews and can advise companies on which ones to recruit.

Matlda has a range of 76 questions but their scope is extremely limited. There are, however, other examples of robotics applied to the human resources sector that are close to the needs of the work of a newsroom, which is to filter a large amount of unstructured information in search of a few relevant details. Entelo is a San Francisco-based headhunting company that has developed software that is able to sift through thousands of pages of information that is available on the internet to select the best candidate for a certain job. The company can count on Facebook, UPS and Sony among its clients.

Perhaps as people attempt to better understand the potential of artificial intelligence rather than carry out precise tasks, we are witnessing the spread of apps that are useful to manage agendas and organize meetings. But perhaps one day, we could see the spread of apps that act as a personal assistant, answer emails and - in the case of journalists - write articles, tweets or even Facebook posts in the same style of a specific reporter. This could represent the evolution of Replika, a way to (freely) experiment the interaction between human beings and bots and to test first-hand how the reproduction of human life through AI - a la “Black Mirror” - is not impossible. Replika, which is available on the App Store and Play Store, is presented as a “friendly AI who is always at your disposal,” who learns to know you to the point that it can start acting as a replica of yourself.