AI centre stage in weird and wonderful take on Festival Fringe


THE WORLD’s first AI generated Arts festival programme is to premier for this years virtual fringe festival in abscence of the physical version.

ImprovBot will be creating show descriptions every hour from the August 7-31 for this years virtual Edinburgh Festival Fringe since its creation in 1948.

Researchers from the University of Edinburgh used artificial intelligence to analyse a digital archive of fringe listings to create a series of mind-bending online spectacles.

In partnership with the Festival Fringe, researchers mined eight years’ worth of data from Fringe programmes.

AI creates virtual festivals first ever programme as a joke
AI creates virtual festivals first ever programme as a joke. Image supplied


The researchers instructed the ImprovBot to repetitively mine the 100-word text descriptions of every show from 2011 to 2019, amounting to more than two million words.

Online audiences will be allowed to interact with ImprovBot on Twitter that created the new shows based on previous fringe listings from 1pm on Friday, August 7.

The bot will use this data to devise the world’s first AI-generated event blurbs for an imagined festival of comedy, plays, musicals, and cabaret.

It will come up with more than 350 show descriptions – ranging from the bizarre to the hilarious.

The Improverts – the Fringe’s longest running improvised comedy group – will then use the descriptions to give their playful take on the shows via Twitter.

AI creates virtual festivals first ever programme as a joke
University of Edinburgh created ImprovBot and fed it over two million words to digest from past years. Image supplied

Examples of the imaginary shows include Bvinta What Hour, described by the ImprovBot as “a theatrical paranormal political programme”, The High School Voice of Work in Progress, allegedly “an hour of delightfully darkly confident examples of reality”.

The Waters of Leaves: “The haunting story of a man who’s seen a medical coming of age story”, and George Davis: Clarinet Horror Show.

ImprovBot was developed as a recurrent neural network – a computer program that operates in a manner inspired by the natural neural network in the brain.

The researchers programmed ImprovBot to invent the shows using an Artificial Intellgence technique that trains a neural network to recognise patterns in text until they can construct their own descriptions.

Professor Melissa Terras inventor of ImprovBot, said: “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.”

ImprovBot has been developed by experts in exploring creative opportunities from data driven innovation via Creative Informatics – a research and development programme based in Edinburgh, which brings the city’s world-class creative industries and tech sector together.

They worked in partnership with Improverts – Edinburgh University Student’s Association’s improvisation troupe – and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society.

ImprovBot was programmed by Gavin Inglis, a creative technologist and writer for interactive media, who also teaches creative writing at the University’s Centre for Open Learning, and Rudolf Ammann, a London-based designer and visual artist.