AI has achieved superhuman performance in chess, what about improving writing?
Could we set up improving text as a game? wondered Matej Guid, founder and CEO of InstaText, after witnessing AlphaZero become the best chess player on the planet, following just a single day of learning the game by playing against itself, in late 2017.
Matej Guid, founder and CEO of InstaText
If a computer that was oblivious to chess just a day ago, was able to learn how to play the game better than any human, and to do so by only playing against itself, could such an approach also be applied in computer language acquisition, deliberated Matej Guid, a Slovenian FIDE master, artificial intelligence scientist, and researcher at the Faculty of Computer and Information Science, University of Ljubljana.
He came up with the idea to create an online platform that would utilize artificial intelligence to provide instant recommendations and ideas to improve the content of a text written in English. He presented this concept to Marcus Hassler, a language technology expert from Klagenfurt, Austria, who immediately recognized its potential. They set to work and by January 2020 had developed the InstaText platform, which has already gained traction with users around the world.
Unlike Grammarly and similar tools that only focus on improving the grammar of a piece of writing, InstaText manifestly improves the text, making it easier to read and clear to understand. The program creates multiple recommendations, but it goes much deeper than any existing tool. When necessary, it revises the entire sentence to better fit the context of the narrative. InstaText aims to be a confident and competent ally to the writer, helping them refine their text in real time. However, it does not interfere with the author’s approach, as these recommendations can easily be rejected using the simple web interface.
InstaText is based on the idea that utilizing artificial intelligence, the entire text can be rewritten to look as if it was written by a proficient native speaker. It is designed to improve the source text by helping to rewrite it, and this includes not only correcting grammar, improving lexis and word usage, but can also lead to rigorous wording reconstruction and text optimization. Such a tool could not have been developed before the advent of the latest artificial intelligence technologies, such as Deep Learning and the AlphaZero algorithm, with modern language technologies also playing an essential role.
InstaText is supported in many popular web applications
Much like how Google’s algorithms plow through the limitless content of the World Wide Web, InstaText accesses various texts from many fields. A prime example is scientific articles, which are generally available through Google Scholar free of charge. “AlphaZero’s performance certainly served as a major inspiration: not only did it start learning chess with a blank slate and become by far the strongest player on the globe in less than a single day, it was even more amazing that the games it played against Stockfish – the reigning program at the time – were impressive, many of them true masterpieces, one might even say works of art!” enthuses Matej Guid.
“AlphaZero can be used to ‘create’ exceptionally strong players in any game with perfect information, i.e. where all information about the current state of the game is available to all players,” explains Guid, who also wrote the highly acclaimed tutorial Learn and Master Progressive Chess. “In chess, for example, we have an overview of the board all the time, unlike in poker, where some cards are face down. The reason is simple: you do not need expertise to learn chess, just the rules!” Guid used this approach for machine learning written communication. But how would the program know which texts were good and which were mediocre? How to even define the “rules of the game” for writing texts in the first place? It turns out that there are a surprising number of ways for improvement. The artificial intelligence that powers InstaText is constantly evolving and making huge leaps every month, with the quality of provided recommendations surprising even proofreaders and translators who use the program.
InstaText, an AI-based tool inspired by AlphaZero’s success in chess, manifestly improves the text, making it easier to read and understand
As for privacy, InstaText pledges not to store the texts on its servers and to delete them immediately after the program recommends the improved text. Through numerous user interactions, InstaText’s developers have learned that many of them actually want an artificial intelligence running in the background. That way, it can learn better from their texts – and even from articles they have already published – helping them to be even more efficient. And they can do this without having to store any text on their systems. InstaText has also developed the technology that allows users to further customize the text enhancement tools to suit their needs and writing style, using personal dictionaries and various language settings.
InstaText plans to gradually provide support for all major world languages. “We launched with English and focused mainly on improving academic texts, as our core team also comes from academia,” Guid explains. This also means that they are particularly aware of the advantage that writing support can have, as a well-written scientific article can mean the difference between success and failure. Submitting clear, effective and understandable texts for publication can significantly shorten the path to print.
InstaText now has over 2 million registered users and customers in over 100 countries. The vast majority of users come from academia. InstaText is supported in many popular web applications such as Google Docs, Gmail, Outlook, WhatsApp, LinkedIn and Twitter. It can also be found in Word and even Overleaf, as it also supports LaTex text.
»I find InstaText very helpful. It makes me much faster in writing papers. I’m a perfectionist and usually spend (way too) much time finding the right words and making sure that sentences are easily readable even if the concepts are arbitrarily complicated. InstaText makes my life easier,« said Giulia Guidi, a doctoral student at the University of California, Berkeley.
Mojca Vizjak Pavšič