Syfy Insider Exclusive

Create a free profile to get unlimited access to exclusive videos, sweepstakes, and more!

Sign Up For Free to View
SYFY WIRE robots

Broadway 'bots? Robots are writing a play to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the word 'robot'

By Jacob Oller

The word "robot" comes to sci-fi fans from Czech playwright Karel Čapek, whose R.U.R. introduced artificial humans as Rossum's Universal Robots and kicked off a whole subgenre of fiction. There'd be no Terminator, no Westworld, and no Iron Giant without Čapek. The theater and robots have been linked since the beginning, which is why — as the 100th anniversary of the play approaches (it premiered Jan. 25, 1921) — a team of Czech theater professionals and A.I. specialists are hoping to put on their own robot-created play in honor of Čapek's work. They call it THEAITRE.

Partially sponsored by the Technology Agency of the Czech Republic, this venture (led by Rudolf Rosa, who's just one of the representatives from Prague's Charles University) looks to "produce and stage the first computer-generated theatre play." Part of that will rely on "deep neural models trained and fine-tuned on theatre play data," which will adapt previous text and story-generating A.I. with the specificities of plays. Basically, all those memes about "we fed X episodes of Star Trek into an A.I. and this came out" are the aim of this research project.

The problem is that it has to make sense. No, not just make sense: It has to be worth watching. The THEAITRE team's biggest task is translating dramatic structures into systems that are decent at generating related text, even if they know very little about narrative or the formal structure of plays. And even then, after training the systems on plays, there will still be the need for some "human-in-the-loop" input from theater pros. Oh, and they're also having to do this simultaneously in English and in Czech.

Even if the A.I. doesn't generate this thing from scratch and even if its first effort is ultimately imperfect, people will still be trying to perform its robotically written production once it's finished. 

They've even cut a little trailer. Take a look:

The first creation of THEAITRE hopes to whir and buzz on stage in January 2021, with a second, improved version aimed at 2022.