Most folks remember IBM’s supercomputer Watson not so much for it forging new ground in artificial intelligence, but more because of its infamous game-show matchup with Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter on Jeopardy back in 2011. While named after IBM’s first CEO and not Sherlock Holmes’ famous sidekick, Watson’s cognitive capabilities has access to over 200 million pages of structured and unstructured content consuming four terabytes of disk storage, including the full text of Wikipedia. With that amount of baked-in knowledge, our fictional detective’s deductive reasoning would pale in comparison.
The Write Way by Watson . . .
Not content to rest on its laurels, Watson has accomplished a number of achievements since its Jeopardy triumph. From making treatment decisions for lung cancer patients at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center to consulting with venture capitalists to determine what new start-ups to add to their portfolios, this supercomputer is actively assisting in a number of fields of endeavor, including telecommunications, financial services and government.
This month, Watson adds to its accomplishments something to put a smile on a good number of indie authors’ faces. It is addressing an issue many of us writers anguish over. What struggling novelist hasn’t experienced a period of time when they’ve felt their work was sounding too upbeat, too happy or on the other end of the spectrum too melancholy, too sad, too angry – or, in general just hampered by emotional unevenness?
Well, that's where Watson will come into play, because its new ‘Watson Tone Analyzer’ might be just what the doctor ordered.
As an artificial intelligence muse of sorts, this new feature goes leaps and bounds beyond the elementary spell-check tool of the past to actually assessing the “tone” of your writing. And in so doing, it can help you polish and perfect your style to achieve very specific goals.
This software, which just became available in July, is part of the Watson Developer Cloud application programming interfaces and software kits, which are the tools IBM offers to third-party developer’s clients as well.
Tone it down, or Tune it up . . .
The WTA service uses linguistic analyses to detect emotional tones, social propensities, and writing styles in written communication. Then it offers suggestions to help you the writer improve your language deliveries, sort of like a ‘Super Editor.’
It will rate your text in three distinct areas of focus:
1- Emotion (negativity, anger, cheerfulness)
2- Social propensities (openness, agreeableness, conscientiousness)
3- Writing style (analytical, tentative, confident)
In so doing, it uses positive and negative detective automation software in a way that’s reminiscent of that classic 1945 Johnny Mercer tune: “Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, don’t mess with mister in-between ♪ ♫ ♪.” At its core, one of Watson’s main objectives is to help you amplify the attributes you find most appealing for you and your readers.
For those trying to adjust the tone of their marketing or branding messages, it’s also beneficial in readying your work for specific target audiences, market research and press releases.
Correspondent Mike Elgan at Computerworld thinks another beneficial extrapolation of Watson’s capabilities might be “to give virtual assistants -- such as Apple's Siri, Google's Google Now, Microsoft's Cortana or Amazon's Alexa -- the ability to understand the tone of their users' requests” and then respond with a similar type of voice.
“For example, by detecting elation or sadness, one's virtual assistant could respond with excitement or empathy, respectively,” concludes Elgan.
Take WTA out for spin . . .
If you find a need for this type of assist, here’s your free opportunity to test-drive the WTA and kick the tires. You can either use the text sample provided on their example page or type in your own text.
Using the text [above], the subsequent analytical results will look something like this, where you can review the percentage of words per tone and the total number of words for each individual tone trait.
Then when you click a highlighted word, a call to the synonym API displays suggested synonyms that either soften or strengthen the tone of that word. It also allows you to select a synonym to replace the original word, changing the tone of the message.
For a more in-depth explanation of the myriad of other features that comes part and parcel with WTA, visit their ‘Documentation’ highlight page here. While the basic tool on the WTA’s web site is free to writers of all types, for those third-party developers that want to take the Watson application to the next level, Watson Ecosystem Partnerships are available.
Does Watson have all the answers?
Of course, there are other artificial intelligence software programs that approximate what the WTA will do for you. For example, companies like Automated Insights and Narrative Science can analyze data (such as financial numbers or sports scores, stats and other data) and transform those stats into prose, usually in the form of news stories or financial reports.
However, that type of AI is more for writers who lack a muse or creative ability. For writers who are looking to refine their work and to obtain a more even tone, the WTA really stands out from the competition. From my perspective, I think self-publishing authors and even traditional publishers and editing services will adopt this software and add it to their creative tool box.
As this semantic technology matures, I'm sure over time Watson will only get smarter in improving its output. While it may not have all the answers you'd like to see in a service like this today, I'm sure in no time at all Watson will advance with new features, as fast as it takes us common mortals to think them up.
What are your thoughts? As authors of various genres, both fiction and non-fiction, do you find this type of artificial intelligence beneficial not only in helping you create but also in polishing your work in advance of self-publishing?
Readers & Writers: I look forward to your feedback, comments and critiques, and please use BookWorks.com as your resource to learn more about preparing, publishing and promoting self-published books. My blogs appear bi-weekly on the 1st and 3rd Fridays of each month.
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