SCIENCE
08/19/2013 05:08 pm ET

Comedy Robot VIDEO: Researchers Program 'RoboThespian' To Perform Stand-Up Comedy & Gauge Crowd

Most human-like robots are downright creepy, while others have been engineered to be loving, and now scientists from the Queen Mary University of London have programmed a robot to be applause-worthy funny.

The humanoid robot, dubbed RoboThespian, performed a stand-up comedy routine at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival last week in front of a live audience, reciting jokes such as, "I once dated a MacBook. It didn't work, because she was all 'iThis' and 'iThat.'" Just watch the video above.

Funny, right? But the robot is more than a party trick. The joking bot was part of a live experiment to test how different gestures, timing, and movement impacted the audience reaction.

“Although a lot of previous work has focused on performers, we are more interested in audiences, what they contribute to the live experience and ultimately how humans interact with each other in large groups," Dr. Pat Healey, leader of Queen Mary University's Cognitive Science Research Group, said in a written statement.

How did they do this?

“We used computer vision and audio processing software to detect the response of each audience member simultaneously -- something a human comic cannot do," Kleomenis Katevas, a PhD student at the university, said in the statement. "The machine used this information to determine who to look at and which gestures to use. We still have to analyze the performance but it’s clear already that even relatively small changes in the timing of delivery make a big difference to audience response.”

The researchers said their data could help scientists design technologies that are more engaging and entertaining in the future.

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