The Virtual Theater project aims to provide a multimedia environment in which users can play all of the creative roles associated with producing and performing plays and stories in an improvisational theater company. These roles include: producer, playwright, casting director, set designer, music director, real-time director, and actor. Intelligent agents fill roles not assumed by the user.

In particular, in a typical production, animated actors perfrom the play in a multi-media set, all under the supervision of an automated stage or story manager. Actors not only follow scripts and take interactive direction from the users. They bring "life-like" qualities to their performances; for example, variability and idiosyncracies in their behavior and affective expressiveness. They also improvise, thus collaborating on the creative process. Each time the actors perform a given script or follow a given direction, they may improvise differently. Thus, users enjoy the combined pleasures of seeing their own works performed and being surprised by the improvisational performances of their actors.

Current research focuses on building individual characters that can take direction from the user or the environment, and act according to these directions in ways that are consistent with their unique emotions, moods, and personalities.

In addition to its primary merits as a testbed for important research issues in artificial intelligence, the Virtual Theater offers attractive opportunities for interdisplinary collaboration and for addressing important social, educational, and commercial objectives.

The Virtual Theater project is part of the Adaptive Intelligent Systems (AIS) project at Stanford University. May 7, 2001