The Atomic Playboy and the Radiation Romeo

The button below will open a new browser window displaying the Flash interface for Atomic and Romeo (Version 16 with Preloader). You will find a page of introductory text, some instructions and then the interface where you can suggest a topic for conversation.

This version 16 uses the landscape layout, updates the heckler and end-of-conversation functions with an audio sign-off. All the features from previous versions remain - scroll bar control,custId variable allows me to better log and track conversations.

The chat-bots are hosted on the Pandorabots server under the Shared Service subscription. Please note, the terms of the Updated Policy Guidelines for Free Community Server state that the “Use of automated scripts to make your pandorabot talk to itself or another bot or script” is proscribed (Pandorabots 2011). This project is being developed with the agreement of the Pandorabots Inc management and we would like to acknowledge their support. ( Pandorabots )

Please leave a comment...

After you have had a play with Atomic and Romeo please use this link to leave a comment.
Maybe you could suggest a topic of conversation or a layout suggestion.
All suggestions gratefully received.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

10th International Summer School and Symposium on Humour and Laughter
University of Zurich

July 5 - 10, 2010

I've submitted an abstract for the Symposium. Hopefully, it will be accepted. I'd like to test some of the ideas on this audience.

Title: Testing an inversion of Bergson’s ‘new law’ of humour.

Keywords: Artificial intelligence, scriptwriting, agency, humour.

This presentation offers an overview of a PhD project that interrogates of the scriptwriting process as it is applied in a new media, online environment as a confluence of human and non-human agency. The study is underpinned by the theoretical perspectives of humour theory, Actor Network Theory (Callon, Latour, Law et al), the Computers as Social Actors paradigm of Reeves and Nass, and Csikszentmihalyi’s Creativity Theory. The exploration of humour provides the opportunity to explore “what it means to be human by moving back and forth across the [unstable] frontier that separates humanity from animality” and by extension, the frontier between the human and the non-human in general (Critchley, 2002, p.28). Henri Bergson, in his seminal essay on laughter, stated a “new law” of humour, “We laugh every time a person gives us the impression of being a thing” (Bergson 2005, p.28, Original Publication 1911). This project integrates human agency (the scriptwriter and the scriptwriting process) with the nonhuman agency of the artificial intelligence of chatbots (the interface and the scripted processes). As such, it tests if Bergson’s law will stand if it is inverted; will we laugh every time a thing gives the impression of being a person?

  • Bergson, H. (2005). Laughter: An essay on the meaning of the comic. Mineola, New York, Dover Publications Inc.
  • Callon, M. (1999). Actor-network theory: The market test. In Law, J. & Hassard, J., eds. Actor network theory and after, pp. 181–95. Oxford: Blackwell.
  • Critchley, S. (2002). On Humour: Thinking in Action. New York and London, Routledge.
  • Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1997). Creativity: flow and the psychology of discovery and invention. New York, Harper Collins.
  • Reeves, B. and C. Nass (1996). The Media Equation: how people treat computers, television, and new media like real people and places. New York, Cambridge University Press.

Conference papers etc.

The abstracts below have been accepted for upcoming conferences.

Conference – New Directions in the Humanities - 2010

Title: Humour Theory and Conversational Agents: An application of humour theory in the development of computer-based, conversational agents.

Much of the literature on the development of conversational agents comes from the domain of Human Computer Interaction (HCI) (Buchanan 2008; Cassell et al. 2000; Laurel 1993; Reeves and Nass 1996). The Computers Are Social Actors (CASA) paradigm suggests that a user will respond to a computer-based conversational agent in the same manner they would respond to a real person (Nass, Isbister, and Lee 2000). Shechtman and Horowitz, although critical of the conclusions of the CASA paradigm, suggest there is an “inextricable link between the use of natural language and social interaction. Perhaps relationship behaviors are simply difficult to filter out of communication and may arise as an artefact of using natural language in a conversational situation” (2003, p.288). Whether computers and humans are equal social actors or not may be an unnecessary distinction if the use of natural language is alone sufficient to generate the perception of social interaction and personality. If humour is one of the defining features of ‘human-ness’ then for a computer to truly be a social actor it must be able to engage in novel, surprising and humorous exchanges. This paper surveys a range of humour theories in search of a theory that can be applied to interactions of computer-based conversational agents.

Conference – Arts in Society - 2010

Title: Scripting Humour in Conversational Agents: Improvisation and Emergence of Humorous Interchanges

This paper describes a creative project that will develop a pair of online computer-based conversational agents to interact as ‘comedian’ and ‘straight man’. The project will interrogate the scriptwriting process as it is applied in a new media environment at the confluence of human and non-human agency. In the context of this paper the term ‘scriptwriter’ carries two inter-related definitions: first, as a producer and crafter of dialogue for a character; and second, as a developer of computer script to guide the interactions of the conversational agents. It can be argued that the scriptwriter (in both guises) is part of a larger system of circular causality and is thus embedded within structures that both constrain and enable their actions (Boden 1994, 2004; Bourdieu 1993; Giddens 1979) makes intentional choices to achieve particular aims or outcomes. The interaction of the conversational agents is a result of a creative practice that allows for the emergence of improvised responses based on scripted dialogue choices. This paper will explore the inter-related issues of: scriptwriting; emergence; and, improvisation in a new media environment.

Bot Technology

The implementation of a pair of bots remains problematic. Not for the same reasons as before - those were purely technical. That sort of problem can be addressed with a combination of tenacity, research, expert networking, and cash. Having tried all of these approaches I now have a couple of viable solutions.

The first is to 'employ' the computing research guys at Newcastle to set up the bots on a research server. The only downside to that solution is that I would be need to develop a work method for writing and updating the AIML sets. Being one step removed from owning the server I would need to be get some kind of administrator access - this is not the sort of thing server admin people are very keen on.

The second is to use the 'commercial' site that provides the Pandorabot. I already have a test bot up there and I've found an Flash/Actionscript interface (thanks to Jamie Durrant) that will talk to the Pandorabot server. Cool! This is one comparatively small step away from have two Pandorabot accounts and using the Flash interface to throw output to input from one bot to the other. The advantage of Panadora bot is that I could easily update the AIML and be able to speak to each of the bots individually.

I'll keep playing with the Actionscript to see what I can do.