Meet the Infinite Friends Machine, Your Semi-Automated Sitcom Bot

This is a scene from an episode of Friends written by a bot called the Infinite Friends Machine.

The bot's author, Tom Armitage, writes:

The machines does a few simple things. First, it scrapes Friends transcripts. For now, it works for most of Series 1. It then parses those scripts and chops them up into episodes, scenes, and lines attributed to individual characters. It also strips out some directions. Then, using all that, it offers ways to generate new scripts.

The bot is not fully automated to create sitcoms. Yet. Once the scripts are written, Armitage must hand-feed them through "Plotagon," the Xtranormal-like website that lets you create "movies" with CGI "actors." (To make characters "act," "directors" must assign "emotions" to lines; Armitage, for example, had his "Chandler say everything whilst doing the (crazy) emote, to really capture that Series 1 Matthew Perry vibe.")

The IFM's governing rules mean that it generates scripts that closely pattern the structure, though generally not the content, of previous Friends episodes:

When it makes a new "episode":

1) it finds the scenes that are in the original episode it's being copied from

2) for each scene, it finds each line – who says a line at what point in the episode

3) then, it generates a new line for the speaking character from their own corpus. That is: Joey only ever things derived from Everything Joey Has Ever Said. What this means is that the main cast have quite diverse things they might say, and the bit players pretty much only say the same thing. Gunther is quite boring.

Here's a cold opening for an IFM Friends (you can read a full episode here). Like most Markov-authored text, it is poetic and revealing:

Central Perk, everyone is there except Joey.

MONICA: Okay, sit down. Please tell me something, Mom.
PHOEBE: I wanna see! Jack .
ROSS: I had a, um, major crush on you. Isn't that amazing? Look, if she's talking to Rachel Ok, let's do laundry.
CHANDLER: women ? Brian .
RACHEL: Y'know what? Daddy, it's my life.
ALL: Hi, Alan. Oh ! What ?
MONICA: She's not with anyone.
JOEY: Why do you?
MONICA: Kingdom .
JOEY: Have some hormones!
ROSSOM: Joey, uh- OMnipotent.
JOEY: Hey !
OPENING CREDITS Opening CreditsOpening CreditsOpening Credits

"It is not exactly high art," Armitage apologizes, but neither is human Friends. Soon all sitcoms will be written and made this way. My favorite Infinite Friends character is Rossom.