Apps

AI21 Labs intros an AI writing assistant that cites its sources

Comment

Illustration of hand with feather quill pen writing on digital tablet
Image Credits: Malte Mueller / Getty Images

ChatGPT, the AI that can write poems, emails, spreadsheet formulas and more, has attracted a lot of negative publicity lately. Q&A coding site Stack Overflow temporarily banned users from sharing content generated by ChatGPT, saying that the AI made it too easy for users to flood the site with spammy answers. Then, New York City public schools prohibited students and teachers from using ChatGPT on school-owned devices over fears of cheating and misinformation.

That’s perhaps why AI21 Labs, an Israeli startup developing text-generating AI systems along the lines of ChatGPT, tried a different tack with its newly released assistive writing tool, Wordtune Spices. A part of AI21’s expanding suite of generative AI, Wordtune Spices doesn’t compose emails and essays like ChatGPT. Instead, it suggests options that change the voice and style of already written sentences, also offering up statistics from web-based sources to “strengthen arguments.”

“We see new amazing AI capabilities introduced on a weekly basis — [AI systems] that generate images, audio and text in a convincing human-seeming manner,” Ori Goshen, the co-CEO and co-founder of AI21 Labs, told TechCrunch via email. “With all the excitement, for these systems to become useful, they need to be robust, reliable and explainable.”

To that end, Wordtune Spices cites its work for each tidbit of information it profers, providing users with links back to the original sources. That’s one better than ChatGPT, which doesn’t always — or correctly — name sources, and even sometimes points to sources that don’t actually exist.

AI21 says it developed “grounding and attribution” algorithms to search for relevant sources to base Wordtune Spices’ responses on and present the source links alongside info. The tool can help write a thesis statement and main ideas, including explanations and counterarguments, as well as provide analogies and creative expressions like jokes and quotes.

Wordtune Spices
Image Credits: AI21 Labs

Users can choose from different cues (e.g. “legal,” “health care”) to prompt Wordtune Spices to suggest rewrites appropriate for particular professional documents. But Goshen says that Spices was designed to address a wide array of use cases, from writing essays and working on blog posts to drafting financial reports.

“Spices isn’t a tool that generates a full essay with one click, because we don’t think this helps create strong writers,” Goshen said. “Instead, we equip the user with a toolbox of language and storytelling tools for them to craft their text to perfection by making decisions on their own from a host of possibilities.”

But how well does Wordtune Spices work in practice, and is it better than the other AI-powered assistive writing tools out there?

Writer is among those tools — it employs an AI engine that evaluates key metrics such as plagiarism, sentence complexity, formality and active voice usage. Grammarly offers style and tone suggestions. So does Ginger, ProWritingAid and Slick Write.

This reporter wasn’t able to test Spices prior to its release due to technical issues on AI21’s end. But from a brief demo video, the rewriting feature appeared to work well enough, minus the occasional grammatical error. To follow the sentence “It’s no secret that artificial intelligence tools have become one of the latest trends in content writing, blogging and copywriting as a whole,” Spices suggested “Some people, like content writers, may be scared of AI, but it can help you create high-quality content with a minimum of effort [sic].”

Spices cited an article from The New York Times in suggesting the sentence, but Goshen admits that there might be cases where the tool “[misses] information that should have been validated.” He also stressed that, while there are filters and “other measures” in place to try to prevent Spices from outputting toxic or biased text — a problem for text-generating tools like ChatGPT — the model might “make mistakes” all the same.

“We have been working on smart filters and other measures … We also tried to preemptively block any trolling attempts in that regard,” Goshen added. “That being said, Spices isn’t bulletproof, especially because it’s hard to train a [system] to make sensitive decisions that sometimes even humans struggle with.”

Goshen says that AI21 plans to put “a lot of focus” on moderation and “make it more robust” as Spices evolves. But for AI-curious writers holding out for the perfect system, Spices probably isn’t it — even if it works roughly as advertised.

More TechCrunch

After Apple loosened its App Store guidelines to permit game emulators, the retro game emulator Delta — an app 10 years in the making — hit the top of the…

Adobe comes after indie game emulator Delta for copying its logo

Meta is once again taking on its competitors by developing a feature that borrows concepts from others — in this case, BeReal and Snapchat. The company is developing a feature…

Meta’s latest experiment borrows from BeReal’s and Snapchat’s core ideas

Welcome to Startups Weekly! We’ve been drowning in AI news this week, with Google’s I/O setting the pace. And Elon Musk rages against the machine.

Startups Weekly: It’s the dawning of the age of AI — plus,  Musk is raging against the machine

IndieBio’s Bay Area incubator is about to debut its 15th cohort of biotech startups. We took special note of a few, which were making some major, bordering on ludicrous, claims…

IndieBio’s SF incubator lineup is making some wild biotech promises

YouTube TV has announced that its multiview feature for watching four streams at once is now available on Android phones and tablets. The Android launch comes two months after YouTube…

YouTube TV’s ‘multiview’ feature is now available on Android phones and tablets

Featured Article

Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

CSC ServiceWorks provides laundry machines to thousands of residential homes and universities, but the company ignored requests to fix a security bug.

12 hours ago
Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

OpenAI’s Superalignment team, responsible for developing ways to govern and steer “superintelligent” AI systems, was promised 20% of the company’s compute resources, according to a person from that team. But…

OpenAI created a team to control ‘superintelligent’ AI — then let it wither, source says

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is just around the corner, and the buzz is palpable. But what if we told you there’s a chance for you to not just attend, but also…

Harness the TechCrunch Effect: Host a Side Event at Disrupt 2024

Decks are all about telling a compelling story and Goodcarbon does a good job on that front. But there’s important information missing too.

Pitch Deck Teardown: Goodcarbon’s $5.5M seed deck

Slack is making it difficult for its customers if they want the company to stop using its data for model training.

Slack under attack over sneaky AI training policy

A Texas-based company that provides health insurance and benefit plans disclosed a data breach affecting almost 2.5 million people, some of whom had their Social Security number stolen. WebTPA said…

Healthcare company WebTPA discloses breach affecting 2.5 million people

Featured Article

Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Microsoft won’t be facing antitrust scrutiny in the U.K. over its recent investment into French AI startup Mistral AI.

14 hours ago
Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Ember has partnered with HSBC in the U.K. so that the bank’s business customers can access Ember’s services from their online accounts.

Embedded finance is still trendy as accounting automation startup Ember partners with HSBC UK

Kudos uses AI to figure out consumer spending habits so it can then provide more personalized financial advice, like maximizing rewards and utilizing credit effectively.

Kudos lands $10M for an AI smart wallet that picks the best credit card for purchases

The EU’s warning comes after Microsoft failed to respond to a legally binding request for information that focused on its generative AI tools.

EU warns Microsoft it could be fined billions over missing GenAI risk info

The prospects for troubled banking-as-a-service startup Synapse have gone from bad to worse this week after a United States Trustee filed an emergency motion on Wednesday.  The trustee is asking…

A US Trustee wants troubled fintech Synapse to be liquidated via Chapter 7 bankruptcy, cites ‘gross mismanagement’

U.K.-based Seraphim Space is spinning up its 13th accelerator program, with nine participating companies working on a range of tech from propulsion to in-space manufacturing and space situational awareness. The…

Seraphim’s latest space accelerator welcomes nine companies

OpenAI has reached a deal with Reddit to use the social news site’s data for training AI models. In a blog post on OpenAI’s press relations site, the company said…

OpenAI inks deal to train AI on Reddit data

X users will now be able to discover posts from new Communities that are trending directly from an Explore tab within the section.

X pushes more users to Communities

For Mark Zuckerberg’s 40th birthday, his wife got him a photoshoot. Zuckerberg gives the camera a sly smile as he sits amid a carefully crafted re-creation of his childhood bedroom.…

Mark Zuckerberg’s makeover: Midlife crisis or carefully crafted rebrand?

Strava announced a slew of features, including AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, a new ‘family’ subscription plan, dark mode and more.

Strava taps AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, unveils ‘family’ plan, dark mode and more

We all fall down sometimes. Astronauts are no exception. You need to be in peak physical condition for space travel, but bulky space suits and lower gravity levels can be…

Astronauts fall over. Robotic limbs can help them back up.

Microsoft will launch its custom Cobalt 100 chips to customers as a public preview at its Build conference next week, TechCrunch has learned. In an analyst briefing ahead of Build,…

Microsoft’s custom Cobalt chips will come to Azure next week

What a wild week for transportation news! It was a smorgasbord of news that seemed to touch every sector and theme in transportation.

Tesla keeps cutting jobs and the feds probe Waymo

Sony Music Group has sent letters to more than 700 tech companies and music streaming services to warn them not to use its music to train AI without explicit permission.…

Sony Music warns tech companies over ‘unauthorized’ use of its content to train AI

Winston Chi, Butter’s founder and CEO, told TechCrunch that “most parties, including our investors and us, are making money” from the exit.

GrubMarket buys Butter to give its food distribution tech an AI boost

The investor lawsuit is related to Bolt securing a $30 million personal loan to Ryan Breslow, which was later defaulted on.

Bolt founder Ryan Breslow wants to settle an investor lawsuit by returning $37 million worth of shares

Meta, the parent company of Facebook, launched an enterprise version of the prominent social network in 2015. It always seemed like a stretch for a company built on a consumer…

With the end of Workplace, it’s fair to wonder if Meta was ever serious about the enterprise

X, formerly Twitter, turned TweetDeck into X Pro and pushed it behind a paywall. But there is a new column-based social media tool in town, and it’s from Instagram Threads.…

Meta Threads is testing pinned columns on the web, similar to the old TweetDeck

As part of 2024’s Accessibility Awareness Day, Google is showing off some updates to Android that should be useful to folks with mobility or vision impairments. Project Gameface allows gamers…

Google expands hands-free and eyes-free interfaces on Android