Microsoft artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot has demonstrated the creative ability to take a painting and produce Chinese poetry in company’s latest experiment.
Since Satya Nadella took over the reins as CEO of Microsoft in 2013 the company has strived to push the boundaries of research into AI and become an industry leader in the field. Most users will have experienced Microsoft’s AI efforts so far in subtle ways, such as Office 365 programs being able to determine who a user is most likely to share a particular document with. However, to fully test the performance of its AI Microsoft will occasionally attempt proof of concept ideas, like its most recent experiment in which it taught a Chinese language chatbot to take images and convert them into poetry.
In the past few months the Redmond-based firm has been focussing heavily on improving the performance of its visual recognition algorithms. Two of the most notable efforts have been to apply major fixes to its Face API, which reportedly had noticeable issues in recognising people who were not white males, and the deployment of a visual search feature to its Bing mobile app. Users of the Bing app can now use it to find the name and details of hard-to-describe objects like plants and animals, or compare prices on a piece of furniture they find while out shopping.
This latest experiment uses some of these advances to attempt an altogether more creative result. In one test, the Chinese conversational chatbot, named XiaoIce, was fed a painting of a wintry, isolated-looking lakeside scene and asked to produce a poem. The poem had to conform to the particular style and pentameter of traditional Chinese verses. It would be hard to argue the resulting verse did not adequately reflect the inherent context of the source image:
‘Wings hold rocks and water lightly
in the loneliness
Stroll the empty
The land becomes soft’
To accomplish this result, the research team behind the XiaoIce experiment used AI-driven neural networks with a multitude of tweaks to allow it to go far beyond offering a simple description of the image. The team, which also includes members from National Taiwan University and the University of Montreal, explained in detail in their research paper how the chatbot AI is forced to use particular keywords in each sentence and given overriding instructions to ensure a proper semantic flow.
Numerous internal evaluation processes occur throughout image translation and verse creation to avoid repetition and give it a tone of language fluency which makes it appear natural to a human. Carefully conducted human assessments determined that XiaoIce could produce poems that were able to sacrifice some degree of literalness about what the source image showed in order to generate emotional resonance.
While these tests in AI may not directly impact on the productivity of the average Office 365 user, it does show how an algorithm can be adjusted to automate work that has previously been considered too subtly difficult for anyone other than a human to do.
For more information on how Microsoft’s products, including Office 365 and SharePoint, can enhance your business’s performance, get in touch with us at WM Reply .