ERLNMYR > Shows > Improbotics

“If I were intro­duced to a show like this as a kid, I would def­i­nite­ly have paid more atten­tion to sci­ence class.”

Phoenix Remix, Brighton Fringe, 2019

What do words like ‘art’, ‘cre­ativ­i­ty’ and ‘humour’ mean in the era of smart tech­nol­o­gy and self-learn­ing algo­rithms? Can a robot ever make the­atre and if so, what does this non-human the­atre look like? Let’s see what Alex — the robot of Impro­bot­ics — makes of it.

Although our robot starts off by per­form­ing in the show, the Impro­bot­ics play­ers take it one step fur­ther rather quick­ly. All per­form­ers are wear­ing an ear­piece with which they can receive Alex’s lines direct­ly into their ears. When Alex takes con­trol of the show like an invis­i­ble direc­tor and starts pup­peteer­ing one of the play­ers as a ‘cyborg’, the audi­ence some­times doesn’t even know who is con­trolled by arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence and who is using their own free will to speak.

Impro­bot­ics was devel­oped by com­put­er sci­en­tists Piotr Mirows­ki (UK) and Kory Math­ew­son (Cana­da). They built an arti­fi­cial­ly intel­li­gent chat­bot based on mod­els of how lan­guage works. These mod­els are cre­at­ed by a com­put­er learn­ing on huge amounts of text with 1,5 bil­lion para­me­ters and a dataset of 8 mil­lion web­pages. This soft­ware can cre­ate text by pre­dict­ing words based on all the pre­vi­ous­ly used words. By fine­tun­ing these mod­els on the sub­ti­tles of more than 100,000 movies, Alex can not only gen­er­ate words into sen­tences, but also talk in dialogues.

Cast: Rishi Pan­chasara, Char­lotte De Met­se­naere, Gilles Del­vaulx, Kel­ly Agath­os, Ben Hartwig, Ann Claes, Mag­a­li Minet, Alain Rinck­hout and Ben Ver­ho­even (in chang­ing com­bi­na­tions)
Direc­tor: Ben Ver­ho­even 
Scenog­ra­phy: Robin Decoster 
Dra­matur­gy: Imre Spoor 
Cos­tume design: Lotte Cools 
Illus­tra­tions: Koen Van Den Eeck­hout
Tech­ni­cian: Jesse Steurs
Tech­no­log­i­cal sup­port: Thomas Win­ters and Sebas­ti­aan Jansen
Con­cept: the Impro­bot­ics con­sor­tium, con­sist­ing of Kory Math­ew­son, Piotr Mirows­ki, Jen­ny Elfv­ing and Ben Ver­ho­even
Pro­duc­tion: ERLNMYR

Impro­bot­ics is avail­able in Dutch and Eng­lish. It’s an inspir­ing show for organ­i­sa­tions and com­pa­nies, as well as a school show for the 3rd to 6th year of sec­ondary school. The show is part of Tech­nop­o­lis on Tour, so schools can con­tact Tech­nop­o­lis for book­ings. Oth­er organ­i­sa­tions, com­pa­nies or fes­ti­vals can book the show via:

This show was made pos­si­bly by a sub­sidy from Depart­ment EWI of the Flem­ish government. 
This show fea­tures a robot that was spon­sored by EZ Robot.