Can a robot write a play? The unusual collaboration between AI, robotics and theater


An intriguing new research project is underway by researchers from Charles University, the Švanda Theater and the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague.

They plan to combine artificial intelligence, robotics and the play to create an innovative theatrical performance, which premieres in 2021.

Rudolf Rosa, one of the researchers, said the idea came from Tomáš Studeník, who is an innovator and noticed that the play RUR’s 100e anniversary is fast approaching.

“This was a key moment for robotics, because the idea of ​​a robot, including the word ‘robot’ itself, was invented by Karel Čapek and his brother Josef, who wrote this piece,” said Rosa.

(Photo: Youtube)
THEATER: a play written entirely by machines Screenshot from YouTube

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Artificial intelligence in plays

Researchers reviewed the literature on AI used in poetry, music, paintings, and other art forms. There are already many articles focusing on machine-produced art using computer techniques to produce dialogues or stories.

However, it has rarely been attempted before the completion of a complete and very complex theatrical task.

Rosa and her team decided to use the “hierarchical generation” approach in which their theatrical production is divided into sub-parts.

Rosa explained that they plan to release their piece by January 2021 around the time of RUR’s anniversary. They aim to finish the script by September so that the professional theater group that will be playing it can still have enough time for dramatization and rehearsals.

From now on, they are starting to experiment with creating the script with a pre-trained language model called GPT-2, which was developed by the OpenAI consortium and trained on English texts. The researchers published their first results in an article on arXiv.

GPT-2 is a generative model which allows to complete unfinished texts using the same language and covering the same themes. For example, if it is fed by a news article with a single paragraph, it will try to supplement it by adding a few more paragraphs on the same topic.

Rosa explained that when they tried to feed GPT-2, a staging and a few lines of the drama, it created more lines in a similar text style and focused on the subject of the script that gave her. has been given.

But the researchers did not adopt the model to train it to do theater scenarios, making it more difficult to monitor its operation and performance. The researchers decided to refine GPT-2 training it with existing theater scripts, as this is more convenient, hopefully will generate a best quality script than to develop a new language.

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AI still needs human oversight to make THEAITRE possible

For now, Rosa and her team are still experimenting with “flat text generation” in which a machine learning model is trained to create one line at a time for a script.

They hope that they can soon begin to use “line generation” methods to create a summary of their play, then expand it into a detailed synopsis, then dialogues. Ideally, it will generate a consistent and efficient script.

But at this point, Rosa and her colleagues believe that the robots participating in the play, or THEAITRE as they call it, will still have to be under the watch of humans. However, they would like to build in the future a robot that can be fully operated by robots without human guidance or even human performers.

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