Cinétévé Experience, the interactive branch of production outfit Cinétévé, used this year’s NewImages Festival to launch a prototype of its unconventional AI project “Eliza.”

Created by Léa Ducré, the immersive installation will put participants in an enclosed space and ask them to engage in conversation with an inquisitive and incisive AI interlocutor with only one subject on its mind: Love.

Building on previous interactions and conversational cues, the AI bot – named, of course, Eliza – will try to build an intimate rapport with the user, questioning them about past experiences and presenting narrative prompts as it looks to create a shared emotional bond.

“The idea was to incorporate AI technology to create a kind of narrative experience,” says David Bigiaoui, head of Cinétévé Experience. “These technologies are used on a daily basis in real estate and banking, so why not employ them toward the creative fields?”

Using the GPT-3 language prediction model, the Cinétévé team has spent over a year creating the Eliza’s personality, feeding the AI airport novels, rom-coms and sentimental music, while giving the bot a voice that feels both vulnerable and uncanny.

Their work not yet done, which is why they presented the project as “Liza” – as in, one step from the finished form – and asked attendees to help see the project through. “She’s here to gain a sentimental education, so give her what she asks, and let’s see where it goes,” says Bigiaoui.

“The idea is to have three days of beta-testing, putting it in contact with many different people. By definition, an AI program grows and evolves. It will learn and continue to write its own narrative as it goes along.”

The project benefited from development assistance from France’s CNC, Lagardere Foundation and from the City of Paris, and while the veteran producer credits his country’s “favorable ecosystem” for giving such a project room to grow, he’s still unsure what might follow.

“Today these kinds of projects are almost uniquely doable in English because all these motors are made in English, which raises the question of French distribution,” says Bigiaoui. “So we’re talking to international partners.”

“It’s a protean project that changes from day to day,” he adds. “It’s not like a VR film, game, or experience, where you ask, ‘Where is the market, how do we finance, how do we build it, how do we get it to the audience?’ That’s what’s so wild about this: There’s no path to follow.”