Improvised Theatre Alongside Artificial Intelligences

A new publication on “Improvised Theatre Alongside Artificial Intelligences” will be presented at the 13th AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Interactive Digital Entertainment Conference (AIIDE’17) in Snowbird, Utah.

This study presents the first report of Artificial Improvisation, or improvisational theatre performed live, on-stage, alongside an artificial intelligence-based improvisational performer. The Artificial Improvisor is a form of artificial conversational agent, or chatbot, focused on open domain dialogue and collaborative narrative generation.

Mathewson (as Albert) and Mirowski (as mYleZ), alongside A.L.Ex. the improvisational theatre robot and an enthusiastic audience member at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2017 in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Using state-of-the-art machine learning techniques spanning from natural language processing and speech recognition to reinforcement and deep learning, these chatbots have become more lifelike and harder to discern from humans. Natural human conversations are seldom limited in scope and jump from topic to topic, they are laced with metaphor and subtext and face-to-face communication is supplemented with non-verbal cues.

Live improvised performance takes natural conversation one step further with multiple actors performing in front of an audience. In improvisation, the topic of the conversation is often given by the audience several times during the performance. These suggestions inspire actors to perform novel, unique, and engaging scenes. During each scene, actors must make rapid-fire decisions to collaboratively generate coherent narratives.

This new work introduces Pyggy and A.L.Ex. (Artificial Language Experiment), the first two Artificial Improvisors, each with a unique composition and embodiment. The paper highlights research and development, successes and failures along the way, celebrates collaborations enabling progress, and presents discussions for future work in the space of artificial improvisation.

Read the full paper

World’s first transatlantic AI improv show…

… will simultaneously take place at the Tristan Bates Theatre in London, England (as part of ImproFest UK 2017), and at the Curious Comedy Theater in Portland, Oregon, on 31 March 2017 and 1 April 2017, over an 8-hour time difference between two locations. Kory Mathewson and Piotr Mirowski, joined by Stephen Davidson and Chase Padgett at the control centers, will perform with artificial intelligence-powered robot A.L.Ex and virtual avatar Pyggy. In the run-up to the show, the Sunday Times ran a full-page feature on “Meet the smart robots with artificial irreverence“. Join us for binary2!


Love, sex and marriage… with a robot?


The British Academy, an academic institution championing humanities and social sciences, organised on 3 February 2017 an exciting Late event, entitled “Love, sex and marriage… with a robot?”. The evening was filled with a mixture of fascinating talks about robotics and sexuality, as well as a few artistic performances. Those included the highly talented Impropera – literally creating beautifully sung opera extracts in front of the audience – and yours truly, Albert and A.L.Ex. The talks and events at the British Academy are part of their ongoing theme on Robotics, AI and Society.

Talk on “Artificial Intelligence and Improvised Theatre”

On 18 January 2017, Piotr was very honoured to  perform as Albert and to speak – as himself – about AI and improvised theatre at the London Creative AI meetup organised by Luba Elliot.

The show and part of the talk were recorded and you can refer to the slides for the details of how the AI behind A.L.Ex was built: a neural network trained on a processed version of OpenSubtitles, with a robot avatar from EZ-Robot, some improv lessons given by playing with an AI and the complexity of the actor’s work according to Stanislavski’s System.

Albert & A.L.Ex selected “Comedians to Watch in 2017” by the Phoenix Remix

cropped-untitled I (Piotr) had the honour to be interviewed by Holly Bartolo for The Phoenix Remix (Comedy, Music and everything else in between). Our discussion was about building the artificial intelligence behind A.L.Ex, handling technical disasters on stage, finding inspiration in public solitude and inspiration from excited friends, my ongoing collaboration and ambitious projects with Kory Mathewson and the growing UK improv scene.

Find out more in the full interview.

The Road to AI Autonomy

Albert is back to the drawing board and to intensive coding, slightly modifying the software to make it hardware fault-resilient and adding unit tests to ensure that he can reliably communicate with A.L.Ex when the computer is backstage.

These software enhancements will prove vital for the success of the AI improvisation project, and will be demonstrated in the upcoming shows and performances:

In addition to these upcoming shows, Albert and A.L.Ex have several festival applications under review, as well as a keynote at a major developer conference in Paris in preparation.

Debugging A.L.Ex for the Hoopla Launch Pad

Albert and A.L.Ex will be back on stage at the Miller Pub on 16 November at 8pm, participating in the Hoopla Launch Pad. Albert is busy debugging A.L.Ex in preparation of the show.
Update: the show ultimately went well and initial technical glitches were overcome! Albert and A.L.Ex were proud to share the stage with Jack Left Town, Joaquin and Gillian Make Folk Music from ImprovessionalTwo of Wands, The Neasden Rotary Club, ABOB, Charlie V Martin as Eve and Talking Dog.