Improvisation is the highest form of human intelligence. Improvisers can listen, weave stories from childhood memories, express raw emotions, physically act, and make you laugh or cry.
Improv is a feat no robot could ever reproduce.
Do you think so? We want you to participate in our experiment.
Meet our team. Some of us Cyborgs, bio-engineered bodies of flesh controlled by an Artificial Intelligence (AI), taking all our lines from an AI-powered chatbot, running remotely on a laptop computer, connected by a Brain-Machine Interface also called headphones. Some of us are Puppets, remotely controlled by another human being – a human intelligence – and also taking their lines through headphones. Some of us simply improvise, but wear headphones anyway, to add to the confusion. Meet the Cyborgs. Meet the Puppets. Meet the Free-Will Humans. The stakes are high: at the end of the show, the audience votes to guess who was the robot and who was remotely controlled. Will the Cyborg pass the Turing test? Come laugh with machines as you attempt to solve the deception!
Improbotics International Corp is an improv show, where neither the audience nor the improvisers know who is human (the Free-Will Humans), who is remotely controlled (the Puppet) and who is an AI (the Cyborg). Inspired by Blade Runner, Her and Ex Machina, and the inevitable future of robots entering into our day-to-day life, this dystopian improv comedy show explores what life, love and relationships might be like in a not-so-distant future. The show combines ideas from HumanMachine‘s Artificial Intelligence Improvisation, Etan Muskat‘s “Yes, Android” and the classical improv game called Actor’s Nightmare or Lines From a Play.
Why are we doing this?
Improvisation is about risk, challenge, and cooperation. The improvisers take on seemingly impossible tasks, and through their skill and open mind, surprise themselves. In this show, we want to explore how human improvisers could seamlessly perform when a machine or another human, feeds some of them lines via an earpiece. We want the team to play together in a single, grounded narrative improvisation.
Similarly to the Actor’s Nightmare improv game, the Cyborg and the Puppet will need to justify their lines as well as they can. However, in this case, the lines will be interactive and depend on the context of the improvised scene. The other improvisers, who are not fed lines, will need to make things look natural. All the improvisers, especially the Cyborg and the Puppet, will need to have grounded characters. The AI chatbot, who listens to the conversations on the stage and interactively produces the next line for the Cyborg will probably be, at times, nonsensical. The human master, who observes the improv scene from a hidden place and who feeds lines to the Puppet via the earpiece, will need to create strong dialogue. Or they could, to the contrary, pretend to be the AI and through deception, introduce a wildcard into the audience’s mind.
We want to push the deception as far as we can, and to encourage the improvisers to act in the most natural and intelligent way, and to play to the full range of their emotions and physicality. This setup gives many potentials for strong comedy.
The technology that enables remote control of a human player consists of a laptop, an FM radio receiver with headphones and a program that can either:
- allow a person to type what the Puppet needs to say,
- or to type sentences that will be sent to an artificial intelligence-based chatbot (based on HumanMachine’s A.L.Ex), that will generate sentences to say by the Cyborg.
All the performers wear headphones, and both the Puppet and the Cyborg get their lines through the same, computer-generated, voice, so that no one but the improviser a priori knows who is who…