Research spinout LAIKA helps creative writers overcome the dreaded writer’s block
Associate Professor at the IT University of Copenhagen, Martin Pichlmair, has spearheaded the development of LAIKA – new artificial intelligence that acts as a helping hand for creative writers struggling to find inspiration. Today, LAIKA is officially launched as a spinout company in collaboration with the ITU Business Unit.
At some point, most creative writers have struggled with writer’s block. Feeling a lack of inspiration can hamper any creative process, and sometimes scaling that blank piece of digital paper is tantamount to climbing a mountain. That is where the artificial intelligence tool LAIKA comes into play.
LAIKA is a creativity tool that lets writers collaborate with artificial intelligence by providing them with a writing partner to interact with. LAIKA learns from a writer’s own body of work, so that it speaks in the writer’s own voice, offering creative suggestions and improvements to their text. Writers may also train the technology that makes up LAIKA’s unique features on the works of other writers, gaining inspiration from previously tried and tested source material.
The LAIKA prototype is the result of an InnoExplorer-funded research project run by Associate Professor Martin Pichlmair of the IT University of Copenhagen. Today, LAIKA is officially launched as a spinout company in collaboration with the ITU Business Unit.
The idea for LAIKA, which at the moment has nearly 1000 test users signed up, was first developed by Martin Pichlmair and game writer Charlene Putney:
“At the core of LAIKA is the ability to adapt to new styles of writing. If you already have a body of work, it will continue a sentence in your style, using your concepts, bringing in places and characters you have written about. It has a statistical understanding of what is a likely progression in what you are writing. It can help you decide where to take the plot of your story, fill in the blanks, create characters rooted in your own writing,” says Martin Pichlmair.
Spark of inspiration
At the moment, Martin Pichlmair and the LAIKA team are looking for more funding to turn the technology into an actual commercial product. Their ambition is to eventually see LAIKA integrated into the pipelines of game developing studios. It is uniquely suitable for game writers who often have large bodies of work already available and who have to maintain a consistent tone in their writing, according to the researcher whose own background is in video games research.
However, LAIKA is applicable to all creative writing. Similar technologies have been developed for game development in the past, but none of them have been designed with user-friendliness in mind. This also makes LAIKA a viable option for writers who are not necessarily tech wizards:
“It is widely applicable. We know of two crime writers who worked with LAIKA and in the process discovered the murderer in their story before it was even written. They prompted LAIKA to reveal information on what had happened in the story and that gave way to a new theory for them. It’s a really interesting interplay between the human mind and artificial intelligence,” says Martin Pichlmair.
LAIKA also uses a popular image generation framework to visualize components of the story the writer is working on and in that sense, it is also a tool for reflection that may help writers approach their ideas, concepts, and characters from different angles.
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“The writer has absolute control of where the story is going. LAIKA is just a way to fertilize the creative process,” the researcher says. “It helps you to feel inspired by ping-ponging ideas with the machine.”