Creativity

I have co-founded HumanMachine and Improbotics, two “artificial intelligence improvised theatre companies”. I am also exploring AI art generation at DeepMind, and organising a panel at the Royal Anthropological Institute‘s upcoming conference on Anthropology, AI and the Future of Human Society.

As a theatre maker and a researcher in AI, I believe in an interdisciplinary approach to the arts and sciences. My vision is to explore new forms of human theatre through the help of state-of-the-art research in artificial intelligence and robotics, and to highlight what is uniquely human, guided by of artistic collaboration. I see the skill of theatrical improvisation as one of the highest forms of human intelligence, and by confronting humans to the incongruity of machines on the stage, we can create new opportunities for absurdist comedy5, cross-cultural connection6 and interactive story-telling9.

Piotr Mirowski, Kory Mathewson and A.L.Ex the robot. Performance of HumanMachine: binary2 - Transatlantic Artificial Intelligence Improv on 31 March 2017 at the Tristan Bates Theatre in London and Curious Comedy Theater in Portland. Image credits: Ross Gamble.
Performance of HumanMachine: binary2 – Transatlantic Artificial Intelligence Improv on 31 March 2017 at the Tristan Bates Theatre in London and Curious Comedy Theater in Portland. Image credits: Ross Gamble

HumanMachine is a world’s first artistic experiment fusing improvised theatre with artificial intelligence and telecommunications technology, aiming at exploring the meanings of creativity and spontaneity. With co-founder Dr. Kory Mathewson, we built a show that relies on a human improviser who performs short improvised scenes with a robot stage partner (employing speech recognition, a neural network-based chatbot that I have coded up and trained on the dialogue from over 100k films1, and voice synthesis), in order to communicate with the improviser. Video projections of the system at work and a robot embodiment help the improviser and the audience to get immersed in the scene. The show is a celebration of hacking, experimentation and risk-taking. Using these premises, Kory and I have performed solo improvisation with this artificial intelligence-powered robot in London, Edmonton, Paris and Antwerp, two-prov with a robot via transatlantic link in London, Düsseldorf and at the Brighton Fringe in 2017 and 2018, and we have played on the same stage at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2017, Edmonton Fringe in 2018 and at the Zürich Kunsthalle in 2018.

Piotr Mirowski, Shama Rahman and A.L.Ex the robot. Performance of Improbotics: Theatrical Turing Test on 1 August 2018 at the Hen & Chickens Theatre in London. Image credits: Natalya Micic.
Performance of Improbotics: Theatrical Turing Test on 1 August 2018 at the Hen & Chickens Theatre in London. Image credits: Natalya Micic

Improbotics is a live improvised Turing Test2: an actual artificial intelligence-based chatbot is performing in the show. That AI tries to pass as human in front of an audience of human judges as it sends lines to one of the improvisers via an earpiece. The aim of our show is an arts-meet-science interdisciplinary exploration of how actors can seamlessly perform while controlled by a machine3, 4. Improbotics premièred at the Nursery Theatre in London with the London cast, which also performed at the Camden Fringe Festival 2018 and 2019, Brighton Fringe Festival 2019, Subito! 2019 and Improtheaterfestival Würzburg 2019. Canadian Improbotics troupe, headed by Kory Mathewson, premièred at the Improvaganza festival in Edmonton in 2018 and had a run at the Citadel Theatre in Edmonton with a Rapid Fire Theatre cast in 2019. Swedish Improbotics troupe, headed by Jenny Elfving, premièred in Stockholm in 2018 and performed together with the London troupe at Impro Amsterdam 2019 and Improfest Göteborg 2019. Flemish Improbotics troupe, founded by Dr. Ben Verhoeven, premièred at Theatre Mechelen in 2020.

Piotr Mirowski, Boyd Branch, Harry Turnbull, Jutta Diessl and Julie Flower. Performance of Improbotics: Rosetta Code on 18 August 2021 at the Cockpit Theatre in London. 
Image credits: Erika Hughes.
Performance of Improbotics: Rosetta Code on 18 August 2021 at the Cockpit Theatre in London.
Image credits: Erika Hughes

With my collaborator Prof. Boyd Branch, we have created a platform for virtual and augmented reality theatrical online rehearsals and performance7, integrating green screens, affordable audio-visual equipment and custom code developed using TouchDesigner and AI Python libraries. Our platform enabled the Improbotics troupe to perform throughout the pandemic8 at Online Paris Fringe 2020, ArtAI 2021 and Iasi Romania International Theatre Festival for Young Audience 2021, as well as in mixed-reality show at The Cockpit Theatre at Camden Fringe 2021 where one of the performers was connecting remotely from Sweden and seamlessly integrated on video projections.

[1] Kory Mathewson and Piotr Mirowski (2017) Improvised theatre alongside artificial intelligences, AIIDE.

[2] Kory Mathewson and Piotr Mirowski (2017) Improvised comedy as a Turing test, NeurIPS workshop on AI for Creativity.

[3] Kory Mathewson and Piotr Mirowski (2018) Improbotics: Exploring the imitation game using machine intelligence in improvised theatre, AIIDE.

[4] Piotr Mirowski and Kory Mathewson (2019) Human improvised theatre augmented with artificial intelligence, AIIDE.

[5] Gunter Loesel, Piotr Mirowski & Kory Mathewson (2020) Do digital agents do Dada?, International Conference on Computational Creativity.

[6] Piotr Mirowski, Kory Mathewson, Boyd Branch, Thomas Winters, Ben Verhoeven, Jenny Elfving (2020) Rosetta Code: improv in any language, International Conference on Computational Creativity.

[7] Boyd Branch, Christos Efstratiou, Piotr Mirowski, Kory W Mathewson, Paul Allain (2021) Tele-Immersive Improv: Effects of Immersive Visualisations on Rehearsing and Performing Theatre Online, Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (SIGCHI).

[8] Boyd Branch, Piotr Mirowski, Kory Mathewson (2021) Platforms for Multilingual Tele-Immersive Storytelling and Improvisation, Electronic Literature Organisation.

[9] Boyd Branch, Piotr Mirowski, Kory Mathewson (2021) Collaborative Storytelling with Human Actors and AI Narrators, International Conference on Computational Creativity.

[10] Chrisantha Fernando, Ali Eslami, Jean-Baptiste Alayrac, Piotr Mirowski, Dylan Banarse, Simon Osindero (2021) Generative Art Using Neural Visual Grammars and Dual Encoders, arXiv (code).