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McCormick in the Media

Faculty Startup Narrative Science Featured in Business Insider

Startups' artificial intelligence software blends computer science and journalism to create narratives

According to Kristian Hammond, the days of the spreadsheet are numbered. 

Hammond, professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science and co-director of Northwestern University’s Intelligent Information Laboratory, spoke with Business Insider about his efforts to turn big data into short stories with his startup company Narrative Science. 

Kristian Hammond"We looked at the world of media and data as it's growing today,” Hammond said. “We saw the beginnings of dissatisfaction with big data and we saw ourselves as the solution. You don't want spreadsheets, you want to be told.”

Hammond, who co-founded Narrative Science with fellow McCormick professor Larry Birnbaum, recognized an opportunity to blend artificial intelligence with journalism to change how organizations understand their data. What emerged was Quill: an artificial intelligence service that uses computer algorithms to extract the most important information from a data source and craft a story around it using natural language. 

With Quill, large segments of data that previously required hours of analysis to interpret can now be presented as easy-to-scan, understandable narrative reports. Since its inception, the software has written millions of stories, from post-game recaps based upon sporting event box scores to corporate quarterly earnings summaries drawn from unwieldy spreadsheets.

According to Hammond, Quill’s promise stems from its ability to deliver the data’s meaning immediately and accessibly.

"The story is the point, and communication drives analysis of the data. Instead of a report on the data, you can get a report on what the data means,” Hammond said.

Read the article at Business Insider.