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Wednesday, May 15 • 2:00pm - 3:15pm
Artificial intelligence as source of inspiration: humans and robots improvising hand-in-claw

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Would you improvise with a robot? How could a robot make your improv more human-like? We co-founded HumanMachine and Improbotics, two artificial intelligence-based improvised theatre companies, for interdisciplinary experimentation in human-machine interaction and co-creation. We programmed neural network software to generate lines in response to context, and trained our AI on dialogue subtitles from films. To enable live interaction with human actors, we added speech recognition and text synthesis to our chatbot, acting as a virtual stage partner. The first embodiment of the chatbot was a small humanoid robot, and we improvised scenes involving the robot responding to several humans engaged in a justification game. Its second embodiment was human performers who receive, via headphones, lines generated by the AI; this enabled new improv art-forms where performers can focus on emotional and physical responses to justify the (sometimes) nonsensical suggestions generated by the machine. The premises of our shows include Alan Turing’s imitation game and the uncanny valley. In our previous study (Mathewson and Mirowski, “Improbotics: Exploring the Imitation Game using Machine Intelligence in Improvised Theatre”, AIIDE 2018), we showed that Improbotics performers experienced the AI chatbot as a novice improv partner who challenged them to become better improvisers. Our proposed workshop would enable participants to experience being controlled by contextual AI. We will use AI (trained on human dialogue) to train human performers to better express their humanity. Not having to plan what they say, improvisers will be able to focus on emotions, timing and stage awareness.


Gunter Lösel

Gunter Lösel (SWT) has been publishing on the theme of improvisation since 2004. He is an accomplished impro-player, a member of the German National Team of Theatresports (2006), founder of the “Improtheater Bremen” and member of the price-winning duo “Stupid Lovers”. He... Read More →
avatar for Piotr Mirowski

Piotr Mirowski

Piotr Mirowski (UK) is the co-founder of HumanMachine (https://humanmachine.live) and Improbotics (https://improbotics.org), world’s first AI-enabled improv and theatre companies. He trained as an improviser in Toulouse (C cédille, LUDI), New York (QUICKTHINKING! Improv, Cherub Improv) and London (Nursery Theatre, Hoopla Improv, Showstoppers, City Academy, Imprology), and as actor at London School of Dramatic Art. Stage credit... Read More →

Kory Mathewson

Kory Mathewson (CA) is a PhD candidate in Reinforcement Learning at the University of Alberta with the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute. His research interests include interactive machine learning, human-in-the-loop deep reinforcement learning, human-robot interfaces (prosthetic robotics), and conversational dialog systems. Before his PhD, he completed his Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering and his Master’s... Read More →
avatar for Sarah Davies

Sarah Davies

Sarah Davies (UK) is a Drama Lecturer (UAL Acting) and a Producer for arts organisation Ideas Test. She has a BA (Hons) in Drama with English, a Masters in Drama by Research and a PGCE in Post Compulsory Education. Improv experience includes Co-Artistic Direction of Improv Gym, at... Read More →

Wednesday May 15, 2019 2:00pm - 3:15pm BST
Studio 1 (G271) Grove, Middlesex University, The Burroughs, Hendon, London, NW4 4BT