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THEaiTRE: A theatre play written entirely by machines

Researchers at Charles University, Švanda Theater and the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague are currently working on an intriguing research project that merges artificial intelligence and robotics with theater. Their project's main objective is to use artificial intelligence to create an innovative theatrical performance, which is expected to premiere in January 2021.

"The main idea behind our study came from Tomáš Studeník, an innovator who noticed that the 100-year anniversary of the theater play R.U.R. is approaching," Rudolf Rosa, one of the researchers who carried out the study, told TechXplore. "This was a key moment for robotics, as the idea of a robot, including the word 'robot' itself, was invented by Karel Čapek and his brother Josef, who wrote this play. Tomáš thought that this should be properly celebrated and came up with the idea of turning the story around: 100 years ago, a man wrote a theater play about robots; what if today, robots wrote a theater play about men?"

Before they started working on their project, the researchers reviewed previous literature exploring the potential of artificial intelligence techniques for the creation of poetry, music, paintings, or other forms of art. While there are now a large number of papers focusing on machine-produced art, including some where computational techniques were used to produce dialogues or story ideas for theater plays, the automatic generation of an entire theatrical performance is a highly complex task that has rarely been attempted before.

Rosa and his colleagues decided to split the production of their play into several sub-parts. Their plan is to use an approach dubbed 'hierarchical generation', which entails splitting the generation of a large body of text into smaller manageable parts. While other research teams used this approach to generate dialogues, scripts or other texts in the past, very few have tried to use it to produce an entire play.

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