Britbot is an artwork by Libby Heaney exploring 'British' identity. It is a computer program you can talk to that was trained initially on a version of Britishness related to the UK citizenship test. As Britbot interacts with people, it learns from what they say to become a wider reflection of Britain today.
You do not need to know anything about 'Britishness' to speak to Britbot. It wants to hear your views and opinions on the subject.
The Britbot is an art commission for Sky Arts by Libby Heaney for part of their Arts 50 programme.
It is an online voice activated chatbot that asks open-ended questions about ‘Britishness’ following topics in the UK citizenship test and corresponding book Life in the United Kingdom. Britbot responds to your answers by sifting through hundreds of books, online articles and debates and compiles a reply it judges to be the best fit.
Britbot will be online for six months from June until December 2018 and overtime it will learn from the people it interacts with. It's aim is to gather and reflect a diverse range of views and insights about what ‘Britishness’ really means today.
At the end of the six months, Britbot will be taken down and replaced with a legacy website with insights drawn from its conversations. A book will also be published based on a selection of interactions with users.
You will need Chrome web browser to interact with Britbot using speech. You can interact with Britbot in any browser through typing.
No, we would like to encourage everyone to speak to Britbot as we wish to gather a diverse range of views about Britishness today.
We want you to be as open and honest as you can with Britbot. We will therefore not retain any identifying features such as your name, address or webcam images. We will store your data in a password protected database. The data will only be used for artistic and academic research purposes.
For further details please visit our data page.
Britbot loves to talk, but sometimes it loses its way (don’t we all!). Since Britbot is computer programme sometimes it says something that sounds odd or is even offensive to us. Like any new born, it needs educating. So feel free to correct it and tell it what you think. Britbot would love to hear your views on any subject.
The Britbot project is all about dialogue so if you have any questions, complaints or simply want to share something about your experience please email [email protected]. We are happy to have a conversation with you.
The computational algorithms behind The Britbot were developed by Kory Mathewson. The Britbot uses advanced techniques in natural language processing for speech-to-text voice recognition and text-to-speech voice synthesis. This allows the bot to hear and speak to the users. For dialog management, the system uses a combination of rule-based and purely-generative based methods. There is a defined conversational structure, but the system is able to improvise inside of the defined constraints. The language modelling is done using deep neural networks, and the response generation uses a combination of semantic matching, word-level language generation, and post-generation re-ranking.
Libby Heaney is an artist, researcher and lecturer with a background in quantum physics. Her practice brings together technology, literature and science to create art and conduct practice-based research. She is particularly interested in making work with new technologies, such as machine learning and virtual reality, not for their own sake, but rather as a tool to explore other things - love, identity, truth - to create layered stories about who we are and how we are shaped by the digital.
Libby has degrees from Imperial College London, the University of Leeds and Central St. Martins, is a resident of Somerset House Studios and is a research tutor at the Royal College of Art. Libby has shown at a variety of cultural institutions and galleries including Ars Electronica, The Lowry, Science Gallery Dublin, Sonar+D (with the British Council), Tate Modern and the V&A. Her previous works include Lady Chatterley’s Tinderbot, Time’s Tattarrattat and Quantum Breathing.
Britbot programme: Kory Mathewson
Website: Keyfer Mathewson.
Production Assistance: Jesse Cahn-Thompson