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Edinburgh University AI to Generate Fringe Shows

Michael Behr


Edinburgh Fringe Shows

ImprovBot will use its artificial intelligence to create new shows for the Edinburgh Fringe

Researchers from the University of Edinburgh have used artificial intelligence to create a fantasy line-up of Fringe shows.

Dubbed ImprovBot, the AI will create show descriptions, which will be posted hourly to Twitter from August 7, with audiences able to interact with the AI and a comedy troupe tasked with staging the shows.

Utilising eight years’ worth of data from previous Fringe programmes, ImprovBot mines the 100-word text descriptions of every show from 2011 to 2019, a total of over two million words. It then uses the information to describe an imaginary festival of 350 comedy, plays, musicals, and cabaret.

Edinburgh University Student’s Association’s improvisation troupe, the Improverts, will then use Twitter to provide their take on the shows.

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ImprovBot is based on a recurrent neural network that was trained to recognise patterns in text until it can construct their own descriptions.

“The aim of ImprovBot is to explore the junction of human creativity and comedy, and to see how this is affected when an artificial intelligence enters into the mix. It is reminder of the playfulness of the Fringe and we invite online audiences to rise to the provocation, and interact, remix, mashup, and play with the content,” said Melissa Terras, Professor of Digital Cultural Heritage at the University of Edinburgh’s College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences

The researchers created ImprovBot looking to explore how data driven innovation can develop creative opportunities. The project is part of Edinburgh University’s Creative Informatics research and development programme, which brings the city’s world-class creative industries and tech sector together.

Programmed by creative technologist and writer for interactive media Gavin Inglis and London-based designer and visual artist Rudolf Ammann, will be active from 1pm on Friday 7 August until 7pm on Monday 31 August and can be found on Twitter at @improvbot_ai.

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The physical 2020 Fringe, the world’s biggest arts festival, was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

However, there will be a range of online features in addition to ImproveBot’s fictional lineup – this years’ Edinburgh Festival Fringe features a range of alternative activities including a programme of virtual shows, a festival-wide crowdfunding campaign and artist-facing workshops.

Michael Behr

Senior Staff Writer

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