About Albert (aka Piotr Mirowski)
Albert is a lovable nerd who dreams of the big stage. Lonely but resourceful, Albert builds himself a friend, whom he calls A.L.Ex, a unique computer creation running artificial intelligence. The human and the machine pair up to make a show based on your suggestions.
Albert is the stage name of improviser Piotr Mirowski. The actual performer trained in Toulouse, New York and London, as an actor at the LSDA – London School of Dramatic Art and as an improviser with The Showstoppers, The Nursery, Hoopla, teachers from UCB Comedy, City Academy, Imprology, Gotham City Improv, QUICKTHINKING! Improv and C cédille. Piotr performed in several hundreds of shows, and was a member of New York-based improv volunteering charity Cherub Improv and London-based short form group Improvable.
By day, Piotr is a research scientist in artificial intelligence who completed a doctorate in deep learning at New York University in the lab of Turing award-winning Prof. Yann LeCun.
About Kory Mathewson
Albert and A.L.Ex premiered in London in July 2016. While this was a first in the UK and in Europe, the credit for the world’s first AI-assisted improv goes to Piotr’s friend and collaborator Kory Mathewson, from Rapid Fire Theatre in Edmonton, Alberta, who first performed in April 2016. Kory based his artificial improvisor, Piggy, on a chatbot and explored the idea of an embodied improv avatar. Kory’s work as a talented improviser, touring globally and combining his research in AI with improv, has been recognised in the Top 40 Under 40 list of the Edmonton Avenue.
Kory was seduced by the hard-core AI and linguistic approach taken by Piotr and implemented in A.L.Ex. Sharing the same passion for improv and AI, Piotr and Kory have joined forces, are now sharing A.L.Ex’s code and are collaborating on shows.
In September 2016, Kory gave an academic talk at the Reinforcement Learning and Artificial Intelligence lab of the University of Alberta, detailing his motivation and work on Piggy and demonstrating A.L.Ex:
A.L.Ex, which stands for Artificial Language Experiment (and is also an obscure reference to the clever parrot), is a computer system that can do speech recognition, improvised dialogue and voice synthesis. It is powered by recurrent neural network software, trained on movie dialogue from a hundred thousand movies, and more recently, 4GB of web pages, and it is programmed by Piotr and Kory using open-source components (custom software build on top of torchrnn trained on movie dialogue from OpenSubtitles, GloVe word embeddings, Vowpal Wabbit, OpenAI‘s GPT-2, Google Research Universal Sentence Encoder). Despite being state-of-the-art, A.L.Ex is still a weak form of artificial intelligence.
At its core, A.L.Ex is a language model that captures the complex statistics of words. It is trained to produce the most obvious words that follow any context. It illustrates the fundamental principle of improv: always do the most obvious thing.
A.L.Ex’s stage presence consists in a laptop computer, a portable microphone, amplified sound and video projection, and in a robot produced by EZ-Robot, for which we developed custom control software.