As improvisers, we do not take ourselves too seriously, but we have nevertheless defined a set of values we believe in. We want Improbotics to take the best bits of theatrical spectacle, of scientific research, of actor training, of international collaboration as well as of improv creativity, in order to create a novel art form. And most importantly, we want our cast members and audiences to feel safe and supported.

We regularly check in within our troupe and respect everyone’s physical and emotional boundaries. We follow anti-abuse, harassment and discrimination codes of conduct used at the Rapid Fire Theatre and at Hoopla.

We try to empathise with our audience: after all, we do our show with them. Through a combination of algorithmic filters and human curation, we select AI responses that will spark creativity rather than offend.

We take a proactive stance on diversities among cast members and also aim to engage diverse audiences.

We have developed all neural network-based chatbot software ourselves, debugged it for hundreds of hours, and interfaced it with robot control, various network connections and radio devices. The science behind our natural language processing algorithms and behavioural studies has been rigorously conducted, peer-reviewed and published. We have workshopped the theatrical use of AI for improv with close to a hundred people in Belgium, Canada, Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands and the UK. The tech behind the show and the risk that the equipment breaks down 5 minutes before or into a show are real; the cold sweat and unfettered enthusiasm are genuine.

Avoiding hype
Being a diverse bunch of improv actors, with backgrounds spanning classical theatre, opera, academic research, stand-up comedy, civil service, theatre production, business, policy work and tech, we have different perspectives on technology. Initial co-founders Piotr and Kory, two researchers in AI who know how the sausages are made, are cautiously optimistic about the developments of artificial intelligence, and believe that in responsible hands and with appropriate control and oversight, AI can be an exciting tool to build things and to play with. What we all agree on is that we can use the stage as a space to experiment with nonsense-generating robots and to lovingly mock robots and automata, yes and-ing to the absurdity and milking both the uncanny and the anthropomorphisms. If you are sincerely worried that robots will one day replace actors, we are intrigued: do not short-sell your humanity and go and see a few plays (we have some good recommendations) to understand what theatre really is about!

If, on the other hand, you love Pinter, Becket, Reza, Ionesco and/or robots, and if you want to collaborate with us on a show, an exhibit, a paper or a workshop, write to us. We welcome joint artistic projects that are done with the same collaborative mindset as international scientific research.

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