Do you recall the demonstration of Google’s artificial intelligence skills wherein Pluto and a paper airplane had chats with each other? LaMDA, one of Google’s most recent conversational AI models, provided the power for that. LaMDA is currently being used by Google to create Wordcraft, a writing tool prototype that can assist creative authors in developing new stories.

Writing programs with AI are nothing new. You’ve probably heard of Grammarly or other copywriting programs like Jasper. Wordcraft is presented as a tool to aid in the creation of fictitious material, which gives it a slightly unique distinction. It’s a kind of “text editor with purpose” integrated into a web-based word processor, according to Google. Wordcraft can be instructed by users to change phrases or make a sentence funny. If asked, it can also provide object descriptions or prompts. In a nutshell, it works as an AI tool that doubles as an editor and writing partner.

Google set up a workshop with 13 seasoned authors to test Wordcraft and assess how well it functioned. The authors appeared to value Wordcraft as a tool for generating fresh ideas, but they all agreed that it wouldn’t soon take the position of authors. To begin with, the tool produced mediocre or clichéd writing and struggled to maintain a narrative style. Additionally, it avoided “nasty” characters while adhering to tried-and-true stereotypes.

“We came to the obvious conclusion that using LaMDA to produce complete stories is a dead end. When utilized to add flavor, it’s a lot more successful tool, said Douglas Eck, senior research director at Google Research, at the AI@ conference.

Obviously, there are kinks in any prototype. It’s also challenging to completely comprehend what it’s like to use an AI-powered writing tool. I was interested to see a demonstration of it in person at Google’s AI@ event.

Penguins swimming was the first prompt I gave Wordcraft. Following that, it inspired a few alternative plot concepts, and since I adore young animals, I chose one involving a mother penguin sitting on her eggs. I might then instruct Wordcraft to add another prompt, continue the story, or ask a chatbot for further inspiration. I chose to draw attention to the “eggs” and have Wordcraft provide more detail.

The outcomes were bizarre in all different ways; one said the eggs had a leathery texture, but I chose the one where they were the size of grapefruits and covered in downy feathers. (Ignore the fact that feathered eggs aren’t actually a thing.) I won’t go into every suggestion I tried, but I did have Wordcraft condense a long continuation into a single sentence at one point, and I also had the chatbot create some tension (thus, the seal devouring the mama penguin’s young).

Photo by Victoria Song / The Verge

The end product demonstrates how elementary the writing is. Many things are contradictory, such as the fact that baby eggs are eaten and then a baby is found drifting in the ocean and saved. even though they never actually hatched? Sure! Another oddity was that I had to manually copy and paste any suggestions made by the chatbot into the main window. Each additional prompt is simply clickable and appended automatically.

In the end, it’s what Eck said. After the trial, I found it difficult to see creating a complete tale in this manner, but it was a fun approach to spark creativity. The final piece wouldn’t ever stand on its own, and I wouldn’t even dare post it as a March of the Penguins fanfic on AO3. However, I could take the main idea—a mother penguin repelling a seal to protect her eggs—and adapt the wording into a more engaging, less mechanical tale.

Wordcraft is obviously still in the testing phase. Nevertheless, the prototype was enjoyable to use, even though my main goal was to test how ridiculous I could make one prompt. You may read nine of the stories that were produced by the Wordcraft Writers’ Workshop here if you’re interested. They are quite bizarre.