Welcome to the Machine Age: How #robocomms are changing communication

Type: Features|January 2018
By Wayne Aspland
2 January 2018
Credit: istockphoto.com/mikkelwilliam
Credit: istockphoto.com/mikkelwilliam

Recently, I???ve been chatting with quite a few people about the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on communication, or what I’ll call ???#robocomms.???

What I???ve found fascinating about these conversations is that??nearly every one of them has ended with the same question: Where are these robots hiding? Where can I find applications that are using AI to automate communication tasks?

Increasingly, the answer is ???everywhere.??? There???s a rapidly growing number of tools that are using different forms of AI to automate different forms of communication.

Not all of them are as polished as they could be, and not all will be of immediate use to every communicator. But they all give an insight into how AI is poised to fundamentally rewrite not just the way we communicate, but the power and impact of what we do.

Here are just a few examples of these types of tools.

Microsoft Presentation Translator

Imagine creating a presentation for a multilingual audience. Anyone who???s done this before will know it???s a major headache. You either have to script and translate everything (including your speech) or you need to give your presentation the full United Nations treatment, with batteries of translators speaking into audience headsets.

The Microsoft Presentation Translator (MPT) provides a simple solution to this problem. It lets you translate not just your slide content and notes, but also your spoken remarks, into more than 60 different languages. What makes the Presentation Translator particularly clever is its ability to ???learn your language??? as you go. This helps to improve the accuracy of the translations, particularly when it comes to technical terms and jargon.

With MPT, you can:

  • Quickly translate slides and notes into a range of different languages.
  • Translate your spoken remarks and present them either as subtitles on the screen or via a mobile app that each audience member can download and personalize.
  • Field questions in a range of languages.

This might not be the most common problem in the world, but anyone who has ever had to give a multilingual presentation will know that MPT has the potential to be a simple fix to a complex problem.


Wordsmith is a tool that uses rules-driven natural language generation to convert complex data into written narratives. And it does this at massive scale. In fact, Automated Insights, the creator of Wordsmith, claims they are now producing over 1.5 billion narratives every year.

Perhaps the best way to describe Wordsmith is to use a couple of the many case studies that are laid out on the Automated Insights website.

In the U.S., thousands of companies release earning reports every quarter. The Associated Press needs to cover these reports but, in the past, has had two problems. First, they could only manage to cover about 300 results each quarter and, second, creating these articles was the bane of every business reporter???s life. Using Wordsmith, AP was able to create a set of rules and templates which, when applied to earnings releases and analyst records, could spit out articles in a flash. As a result, AP is now covering over 4,000 reports a quarter???and the journalists are smiling.

Yahoo also uses Wordsmith to turn a mountain of Fantasy Football data into match previews and reports for its army of stats-mad followers. Using Wordsmith, Yahoo claims it can produce millions of reports each week, and every report is personalized to the individual interests of each user.

From what I can see, Wordsmith is about as big as #robocomms gets (at least today). It enables the production of personalized, data-driven content at a scale that was previously inconceivable.



The potential for bots to streamline a range of communication activities is one of the hottest topics in #robocomms today. And the uptake is growing as well. In fact, the 2017 European Communications Monitor found that six percent of respondents are already using social bots to automate social media tasks, with almost 15 percent indicating that social bots are in their plans for the coming year.

Given this, it???s not surprising that new solutions that simplify bot creation are popping up everywhere.

One example that???s particularly relevant to communication professionals is Tangowork, which is a chatbot creator designed specifically for internal communication. Tangowork gives you a straightforward way to communicate with employees over a range of messaging platforms and then to automate conversations when, for example, employees have questions.


While it???s designed specifically as a tool for job ad writers, Textio provides an insight into how #robocomms could soon be supporting all types of writers .

Textio won???t write your job ad for you, but it pretty much does everything else. Just start typing (or copying and pasting) and Textio will score the quality of your ad, based on its analysis of a massive global job ad database. It will use this analysis to guide you on just about everything, including:

  • The content—have you??covered everything, including elements like diversity statements?
  • The tone of your ad. Is it corporate or casual? Is it cold or engaging?
  • Your ad???s structure, grammar, spelling and punctuation.

Textio not only provides an overall assessment, but it also looks at each word and the impact it has. It then provides advice on how to improve your content and re-rates the ad in real time as you make adjustments.

All in all, Textio is an easy-to-use and powerful way to improve the impact of our job ads and, ultimately, your hires. While it may not be big news for communicators (unless you have a large team), Textio is a great example of how AI will improve all forms of writing in the years to come.


Haiku Deck Zuru

Some of you may already be familiar with Haiku Deck. Over the last few years, it???s built up a large following of people who want to simplify presentation production.

With Zuru, Haiku Deck is now using different forms of AI to take the fine art of presentation construction to a whole new level.

To begin with, Haiku Deck can streamline the search for images by picking keywords from your presentation content and matching them with slide images. It then uses color recognition to automatically match banner colors with the chosen images.

But, where Zuru gets really interesting is a little trick it does with Wikipedia. This is a great example of how the way we research will transform in the next few years.

Type a keyword into Zuru.??Then, tell Zuru whether you want five, 30 or 50 slides on the subject. Zuru will search Wikipedia and parse its content into the bullet points you need to create your slides. From there, you use that content to find images and create the presentation.

Imagine being able to do this not just with Wikipedia, but with the entire internet. That???s what???s just around the corner.


In the end, this is just a small sample of the #robocomms tools that already exist today. And you can be sure that both the breadth and sophistication of AI-enabled support for communicators will dramatically accelerate over the next year or two.

Do you have any #robocomms examples of your own? We???d love to hear about them, so share your thoughts in the comments below.

For more on this topic, read Wayne Aspland???s??white paper ???The Robots Are Coming: AI, automation and the future of corporate communications.???

Wayne Aspland

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