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21 Jan, 2016 15:05

The one with the robot writer: Software generates new ‘Friends’ episodes

The one with the robot writer: Software generates new ‘Friends’ episodes

Some fear the rise of artificial intelligence, but based on its sitcom writing skills, we’re pretty safe for the moment.

A newly-created software program can churn out scripts for the hit TV show "Friends" in minutes - and considering what passes for comedy in the modern age, the program may actually produce something worthwhile.

In fairness though, it couldn’t be that hard to improve on the unsuccessful spinoff series "Joey".

Andy Herd - who may or may not have had some free time over the weekend - fed all of the scripts from the TV show into what’s known as a 'recurrent neural network' on his computer. This then learned the sequences of the writing and tried to repeat them.

Herd tweeted screenshots of the results and it has everything you’d want in a new "Friends" episode - weird catchphrases, random outbursts of crying, clowns on tables and, of course, Jean-Claude Van Damme.

Joey: Seriously give me a clown on the table that's all.

Chandler:(in a muffin) (Runs to the girls to cry) Can I get some presents.

Chandler:Well, I proposed to my shoe...

Joey: (laughs) This is his father... (Cave children.) Hey Pheebs?

Herd, a cartoonist with Pandyland, used Google’s artificial intelligence engine TensorFlow to generate the scripts. He admits his method still needs work, but believes it could be the key to a successful future in sitcom writing.

Surprisingly, this isn’t the first time someone has tried to use artificial intelligence to produce new scripts for "Friends".

The Infinite Friends Machine was developed by Tom Armitage in 2014 and, working on a similar basis to Herd, is also able to generate original scripts.

Armitage’s project was a nod to the Infinite Monkeys Theory, which believes enough monkeys with enough typewriters could recreate the works of Shakespeare by chance.

It’s a theory that was (almost) proven by Mr Burns from 'The Simpsons.'