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Japanese researchers work to create AI capable of generating haiku from images

Kyodo

The development of artificial intelligence software that can write haiku based just on images is underway, with researchers hoping the project will improve how technology understands human emotion.

A team of researchers and software developers led by Hidenori Kawamura, a 44-year-old professor at Hokkaido University’s graduate school, is aiming to create AI that can analyze a vast amount of poetry to generate a haiku written about a subject or scene.

The AI has been learning masterpieces composed by renowned Japanese poets such as Kobayashi Issa (1763-1827) and Masaoka Shiki (1867-1902), and analyzing pictures picked by volunteers that correspond to the poems.

According to the team, the AI checks whether it is following structural rules and is using appropriate seasonal references. Haiku are defined by the use of a set number of syllables and traditionally use words that describe the season in which the work is set.

The researchers still face a number of challenges since so far only 5 percent of the poems make sense. The AI’s vocabulary tends to be archaic as it has been mainly learning old haiku whose copyrights have expired.

AI software has beaten top-ranking shogi and go players by choosing what it sees as the best move out of the mathematical possibilities, but there is no absolute right or wrong in poetry, meaning it is difficult for the system to judge the quality of its work.

But Kawamura said some haiku written by the AI have received high marks from experts, giving him hope that the software will eventually become capable of self-evaluation.