Narrative Science goes beyond ‘robot journalism’ with CIA investment

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Chicago-based Narrative Science has a knack for unsettling journalists.

That’s because it has developed artificial intelligence and communications tech that can turn structured data-sets into prose. The company is known for its ability to automate sports and finance content.

But Narrative Science’s algorithms may have another use, beyond perpetuating the media’s fears of “robot journalism.

AllThingsD reports today that the CIA has invested an undisclosed sum in the company through its venture arm In-Q-Tel. Indeed, government agencies could benefit from a technology that can turn a morass of information — often embedded in spreadsheets — into digestible chunks.

Narrative Science said it will build a version of Quill, its flagship product, for In-Q-Tel’s government customers, which includes the Department of Homeland Security.

In-Q-Tel typically invests in business software providers that are secure enough for government agencies. It was founded during the dotcom boom when the agency was drowning in data and needed secure technologies to manage it.

Startups will typically opt to take a cheque from In-Q-Tel, even if revenues are already flowing in. It’s a stamp of approval for companies operating in a flooded market, and it opens the door to huge government contracts.

In-Q-Tel has had its hands in virtually every enterprise success story and has invested in a lot of the technology we use in our daily lives. [See a shortlist of In-Q-Tel’s portfolio here.]

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