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Got data? This free tool will generate a story to tell you what it means

Charts and graphs may be some of the most commonly used tools for bringing data sets to life, but Narrative Science wants you to consider another one: stories.

The company already helps enterprises put data-driven stories to work through its flagship Quill natural language generation platform, and on Wednesday it debuted a new option in the form of an extension designed specifically for users of visual analytics tools from business intelligence software vendor Qlik.

Companies that use Qlik Sense data-visualization software can now download the free Narratives for Qlik extension and automatically create stories that explain what's most interesting and important about their graphs and charts.

Narratives for Qlik automatically identifies what is most relevant in a chart or graph and generates an accompanying narrative. It also dynamically responds as the user refines the analysis, Narrative Science says.

Insights are described in natural, easily understood language, with personalization available to reflect the desired level of story detail, composition, format and language style.

"We've been talking in the business-intelligence world for many years now about making your data tell a story," said Seth Grimes, an analyst with IT consultancy Alta Plana. "This does that. It turns your data into a story in words."

That, in turn, can facilitate understanding of the data, Grimes added.

"What we're talking about here is really a new twist on reporting," he explained. "Instead of a bar chart or pie chart, the software will generate in words what you'd see in the picture."

By offering a new access point for understanding data, the tool could be particularly useful for people with visual disabilities, or as a "crutch" for business users during presentations, he suggested.

In short, "it's a mechanism for simplifying the interpretation of data for a broad set of users," Grimes said. "I'm expecting we'll see something similar from competitors."

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