The Rex Project

“Theatre by email: This unique virtual project lets you ‘teach’ an AI how to feel”

– CBC Arts. May 14, 2020.

In a futuristic world, where the integration of human memories and computer cores has created artificially intelligent androids, companies are mass-recruiting employees to fast-track production. You, the listener, are hired to be an integral part of the quality-control in the emotional development sector. The Rex Project (workshop presentation) is an immersive, virtual, bite-size theatrical experiment that takes place in real time (over 11 days), and is presented entirely through audio-recordings and online platforms. 

Excerpt from The Rex Project (workshop presentation) 2020

Welcome to the Royal Academy of Intelligent Design, we are thrilled to have you on board…

How & When:

The work-in-progress experience will began on May 4, 2020. All is welcome, at no cost! The experience would take roughly five minutes of your time each day (anytime you’d like), for eleven consecutive days (May 4 – May 14).

The audience/participants for this experience is given the title of “Memory-Censors”. You will need to have a Google account where you will be asked to complete some actions in Google Drive.

Wait, what exactly is it again?

The Rex Project is an experiment in form and presentation. What is it like to go on a theatrical journey using emails, audio recordings and Google Drive? We would like to create an show that seeps into your daily workflow. Once you sign up to become a “Memory-Censor” on the RAID website, you’ll begin to receive a 5-minute audio recording each day (headphone recommended!), and be asked to upload it onto a Google Drive folder. At some point, you would also be prompted to interact with characters through emails, where you would have the chance to decide the narrative.

Once you click into the RAID website, you have entered into the world of the narrative. As a Memory-Censor, you are paired up with an AI named Rex, whose training simulation modules will be recorded and sent to you. Upon the completion of all simulations, Rex would graduate from the program capable of understanding the complex human emotions. Your job is to listen to these recordings and report back if there is any issue.

Content Warning: The content of the work involves depictions of mental illness.

Do I have to do it everyday? Do I have to interact?

Well….I can’t MAKE you do anything, exactly. It would be nice. I think it’s the experience is best if you listen to the report once a day. But think of it like a podcast – if you miss a day and want to listen to two reports in a row the next day, that’s okay too. The email correspondence element is a little more time sensitive for the second-half of the 11 days. But if you choose not to, that’s okay too. You will get more out of it the more you interact with it 😉

This is a work-in-progress…

Meaning that the script is still in development, and I’m still figuring out how to best shape the work using these existing virtual platforms. This is the first time this work is experienced by real people, so bear with me! I would love to hear what you think after!

What if I have more questions?

Shoot them my way. I understand it’s a lot of information. Thank you for taking a chance on this work. I really, REALLY, appreciate it!

Written by Tiger Xu & Howard Dai. Produced by Howard Dai. Developed through Two Gents of New West. Facebook event

additional vocal contributed by: Arthi Chandra, Logan Rhys Hallwas, Isabelle Halladay.

Special Thanks to: Kathleen Flaherty of Playwright Theatre Centre, 2018 LAUNCH Festival (149 Arts Society).

This project received financial support from the National Theatre School of Canada via the Art Apart program, an emergency fund for emerging artists who are affected by physical distancing due to coronavirus (COVID-19).

Future Developments

The Rex Project was selected as part of the 2020 Peek Fest Digital Residency by Impulse Theatre, mentored by the great Adrienne Wong. For the residency showcase, a 30 mins version of the experience over a web browser and cell phone (programmed SMS and phone calls) was presented.