Introduction: Interactive storytelling is an excellent test base for learning and developing new innovative AI technology. The challenge of interactive storytelling starts from knowledge representation and the design of the story world that should offer enough variety to produce a large set of different stories. It involves dynamic generation of action plans and algorithms that reason about which actions produce an interesting story for a human. In addition, the user interfaces for authoring interactive stories, real-time graphical rendering, natural language generation for the presentation of the story, and parsing and analyzing of the user input make extensive use of AI technology and are essential elements of interactive storytelling. Research within the field of interactive storytelling touches the philosophical aspect of computational creativity, but is also a very interesting subject for the entertainment industry.
Project context: The Virtual Storyteller (VS) will be used as a basis for this research. The VS is agent based JAVA technology designed and implemented at the University of Twente. The main goal of the project is the creation of stories with an interesting plot, based on the emergent behaviour of autonomous agents, instead of using only story grammars that seem to function more as a fill-in template. The ultimate goal is to evoke an emotional response from the human user -- a very difficult task for a computer program. For a more detailed description of this system see the HMI showcase on the Virtual Storyteller.
Emotional Character Agents
Task: Developing Character Agents that can experience emotions.
The stories generated by the Virtual Storyteller are based on the actions of intelligent character agents performing autonomous, goal-oriented behaviour in a virtual storyworld. An initial design of emotional character agents for the Virtual Storyteller was made in the MSc thesis of Sander Rensen, but since then a more principled design of the story world has been implemented (see e.g., the MSc thesis of Ivo Swartjes) and a new, improved emotion model for the character agents is required. Among other things, the character agents must be able to have emotional reactions to what is happening in the story world and adapt their behaviour to their emotions. This is expected to make the characters more believable.
A first step in the direction of emotional agents has been made with the MSc thesis of Jasper Bragt, who equipped the character agents with personality traits and interests, providing them with motivations for goal selection (some goals will be more important to them than others). This can also be used as a basis for an emotional model.
Advanced Generation of Narrative texts
Task: Extending the Natural Language Generation capabilities of the Virtual Storyteller.
This graduation project deals with the Narrator agent of the Virtual Storyteller system. This agent is responsible for turning an abstract representation of a plot into a natural language story.
There is an existing version of the Narrator that can generate simple narratives that are (mostly) cohesive, fluent and grammatical. (See the MSc thesis of Nanda Slabbers for details.) However for a truly captivating story, more is required in terms of style. Stylistic devices that would be interesting to explore include
- generating direct dialogue between characters
- presenting the story from different perspectives
- variation in word choice
- telling the story in non-chronological order
Also the use of tools such as Dutch WordNet needs to be investigated. Finally, it would be useful if the output of the Storyteller could be multi-lingual, generating stories in other languages besides Dutch (in particular, English).
A Use of Flashback and Foreshadowing for Surprise Arousal in Narrative Using a Plan-Based Approach. Byung-Chull Bae and R. Michael Young. In the Proceedings of the International Conference on Interactive Digital Storytelling (ICIDS 08), Erfurt, Germany, November, 2008.
Narrative Generation for Suspense: Modeling and Evaluation. Yun-Gyung Cheong and R. Michael Young. In the Proceedings of the International Conference on Interactive Digital Storytelling (ICIDS 08), Erfurt, Germany, November, 2008.
A Fabula model for emergent narrative. Ivo Swartjes and Mariët Theune. Proceedings of the Third International Conference on Technologies for Interactive Digital Storytelling and Entertainment (TIDSE 2006), Lecture Notes in Computer Science 4326, Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg, pages 49-60, 2006.
The Narrator: NLG for digital storytelling. Mariët Theune, Nanda Slabbers and Feikje Hielkema. In the Proceedings of the 11th European Workshop on Natural Language Generation (ENLG'07), Schloss Dagstuhl, Germany, pages 109-112, 2007.
Besides the mentioned projects, there are many more possibilities to do graduation work on the Virtual Storyteller. For example, we need someone to develop a hierarchical planner for the Virtual Storyteller to make action planning by the character agents more high-level than it is now, This should increase both efficiency and quality of the generated stories. Another possible topic is story presentation through comics instead of text (a start has already been made with this, see the MSc thesis of René Zeeders).
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University of Twente (HMI) is part of the location Twente