As the Fringe Festival recedes into memory, I realise I’ve not written a MechaPoet update. It was an interesting run. For a start, the show at which the MechaPoet appeared, Chris Parkinson’s Moonshine, won an award for being the Best Literature Fringe show ever. The only bad thing about the show was that Chris lost his European Flag on the final night.
We had our first robot rebellion in the final show. Somehow the intro speech was triggered multiple times. It was a sold-out night and that seemed to go to MechaPoet’s head. She introduced herself, then she introduced herself, then she introduced herself again.
I also did some tinkering on the MechaPoet software ready for our first poetry slam. I tried using Bayesian Filtering on the MechaPoet to help it produce funnier lines. That was an interesting idea, but it didn’t really work. The data set was too small and widely scattered to produce decent results. What’s annoying is that I could have figured that out myself if I’d done a little pen-and-paper thinking-through before starting.
MechaPoet signed up for a slot in the slam at Hammer & Tongue’s Fringe Special. She was one of five slammers and, it’s fair to say, the audience didn’t really get it. As I said earlier in this project, you don’t get a real idea about how well something works until you see it in front of an audience, and we need to overhaul the software before our next slam. But we did beat one of the human poets. And, whatever else I achieve in life, I had an audience of over 250 people watching a cardboard box on stage. (It’s true, MechaPoet’s literary career is more successful than mine ever was).
Since the Fringe I’ve been plotting the next stage of this project. I’ve had some advice from Shardcore, who has been doing this sort of thing longer and more successfully than me (check out his Rap the BBC News project). Brighton rapper Jon Clark has also been playing with rapping computer programs and we had an interesting talk at my birthday party.
There are several things we could do from here: printing generated poems for people, haiku, freestyle hip-hop. Or there is the original idea we had for the MechaPoet, writing an engine to produce computer generated Slash Fiction. And there’s also some talk of a robot poets vs MCs battle – I have some fantastic ideas about how to improvise obscenities that will make a (robot) rapper blush. We’ve also received an invitation for another outing which, paperwork permitting, will be in early September. I need to clear some time soon and start writing new code.