An anonymous reader writes: Creating virtual assistants that can understand and anticipate human behavior and needs is one of the current lodestars of artificial intelligence research. Now, researchers at Stanford University have decided to approach the problem by using descriptions of everyday human activities found in online fiction, namely 600,000 stories from 500,000 writers at online writing community WattPad – input totalling 1.8 billion words – to inform a new knowledge base called Augur, designed to power vector machines in making predictions about what an individual user might be about to do, or want to do next. The scientists suggest that crowdsourcing or similar user-feedback systems would likely be necessary to amend some of the more dramatic associations that certain objects or situations might inspire. As the research notes, 'If fiction were truly representative of our lives, we might be constantly drawing swords and kissing in the rain.'
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