Storytelling Program Weaves Tales on the Fly

Will intelligent assistants of the future, powered by machine learning algorithms, be able to craft interactive stories on the fly? A team at the Entertainment Intelligence Lab of the Georgia Institute of Technology has developed programmatic techniques that could make this scenario possible. CNET recently reported on the results of the project in which the Georgia Tech team built an interactive storytelling program called Scheherazade.

ScheherazadeThe Entertainment Intelligence Lab’s website states that one of their primary focus areas is “intelligent narrative computing.” Scheherazade differs from other story generating applications, because it doesn’t need to be programmed in advance to understand the subject matter of the tale. Scheherazade can create an interactive narrative about any topic using its ability to construct a plot graph.

For their research, the team sourced narrative sequences from a crowdsourcing platform.  These sequences consisted of linear examples of typical events. For example, narrative sequences describing a cruise vacation might look something like this: Jack and Jill plan a cruise vacation, Jill buys cruise ship tickets, Jack and Jill prepare for the cruise, they arrive at the cruise ship, they spend the first night aboard the boat, they get off the boat at the first island stop, and so on.

When someone requests that Scheherazade tell them an interactive story about cruise vacations, it checks to see if it already has a plot graph on that topic. If it doesn’t have a plot graph, the program accesses the human-authored, crowdsourced linear story examples and applies algorithms to create the plot graph. Once the plot graph has been established, Scheherazade can choose plausible alternative storylines to weave together an interesting narrative that the listener can influence.

According to the Entertainment Intelligence Lab’s report, Scheherazade’s stories were judged to be at least as plausible and enjoyable as those created by humans using the same plot snippets. Interactive games can certainly leverage the type of interactive narrative generation that the Entertainment Intelligence Lab’s work describes. Will our future intelligent assistants one day use these same,or similar capabilities to entertain us? Only time will tell, but we all know how compelling entertainment can be.

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