The Princess and the Fox may be the first A.I. bedtime story

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Apr 18, 2018

Barring any unexpected advances in cloning technology, the Brothers Grimm won’t be coming back to life any time soon. However, Calm and Botnik have teamed up to recreate the literary voice of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm with their new A.I.-penned fairy tale, The Princess and The Fox

“You might call it a form of literary cloning,” said Calm co-founder Michael Acton Smith. Calm commissioned Botnik to use its predictive text program, Voicebox, to create a new Brothers Grimm story. But first, Voicebox was given the entire collected works of the Brothers Grimm to analyze, before it suggested phrases and sentences based upon those stories. Of course, human writers gave the program an assist when it came to laying out the plot. They also purposefully pulled back from some of the darker aspects of those classic fairy tales.

“The Brothers Grimm definitely have a reputation for darkness and many of their best-known tales are undoubtedly scary,” Peter Freedman told SYFY WIRE. Freedman is a spokesperson for Calm who was a part of the team behind the creation of this story. “In the process of machine-human collaboration that generated The Princess and The Fox, we did gently steer the story towards something with a more soothing, calm plot and vibe, that would make it work both as a new Grimm fairy tale and simultaneously as a Sleep Story on Calm.”

As the name implies, Sleep Stories are designed to help Calm users to fall asleep. So while The Princess and The Fox won’t have any nightmare-inducing moments, it does have its share of magical horses and a talking fox who helps save a princess from a loveless union with a dreadful prince by helping a miller’s son win her heart.

If predictive technology can truly recreate an author’s voice, then this will be far from the last time we see an A.I. assisted story. “A new Shakespeare play, Dickens or Tolstoy novel generated by A.I. would all be fun,” related Freedman. “Meanwhile, Hans Christian Anderson might be a better bet as the basis of a new Calm Sleep Story.”

But Freedman isn’t worried about A.I. supplanting human writers. At least not in the immediate future.

“A.I. software is getting better all the time,” said Freedman. “Human writers don’t need to fear just yet, but might have more to fear in a few years time.”

The Princess and the Fox is now available on Calm’s app.