Clash of the Conversational A.I. Systems: Anthropology Meets Technology

During this unusual workshop you will help make, from scratch, one of two conversational AI systems that will debate with each other in real-time at the end of the session. Each team will build its own bot to have the opinions and personality of your favourite anthropologist or technologist, either living or dead.

Both systems will be built from a template pre-constructed by the workshop leaders, Phil and Rik. The conversational architecture will be generated in real-time by the teams. The output will be through photo realistic avatars in natural language.

We’ll do some introductions, then split into two teams, generate conversation and build it in real-time, then reconvene to allow the two systems to interact with each other. Who knows what will happen, but we are definitely not going to connect the systems up to NASA or GCHQ or the UN.

This hands-on, collaborative workshop will enable you to:

  • Create conversational copy and concepts in real-time.
  • Explore the limits of practical, transparent conversational AI.

Who should attend this workshop

Anyone who wants to explore or understand conversational AI.
If you are interested in how conversational AI can be generated from real time conversations and structured in a transparent fashion you will find this workshop highly stimulating and enlightening. The workshop will not be overly technical, all types of people are very, very welcome, no algorithmic experience necessary!
We expect anticipate you want to explore how conversation can be seen through the lenses of social scientists, linguists, engineers, subject specialists, and artists.
This workshop may be of particular interest to those that work in the healthcare, education, and entertainment sectors, or those wishing to deliver sophisticated conversation in a transparent and ethical manner.

Workshop Leaders

Phil D. Hall, Elzware
Phil has been delivering practical, effective, resilient conversational A.I. systems for 20 years across business sectors, healthcare, education, and charities. Prior to his commercial interests, he was a mechanical engineer, hand-built Arts and Crafts style furniture, ran production lines, and studied anthropology as a mature student at University College London. His definitive research was an ethnography of on-line community during 1997/1998 where he focused on the implications for an individual’s sense of self and identity in virtual environments. He still has a strong interest in the articulation of subject and objectivity which he plays out by making hybrid AI-based conversational AI systems such as the for fun, and training systems, which are definitely less fun.

Rik Lander, U Soap Media
Rik Lander is an interactive dramatist whose specialist area is participatory media. He made one of the first UK web dramas, magic-tree, and produced and directed Wannabes, the BBC’s first interactive soap. He has parallel careers as an artist and as a writer and director for TV, advertising, and interactive media. With Phil he co-creates the Echoborg experiences that have shocked and illuminated audiences internationally, including being shortlisted for the Innovation in Storytelling Award at the Future of Story Telling in 2018 in NYC.

 In March 2014 Rik won the RTS West Digital Innovation award for The Memory Dealer. It is a participatory drama that uses a mix of performers and technology to tell a complex narrative in which the audience have a key role. To mix things up somewhat he teaches one day a week at the University of the West of England and spends another day leading the FUSE (From Utility to Social Entity) project which explores how people project emotions onto bots.

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  • Leaders: Phil D Hall, Elzware, & Rik Lander, U Soap Media
  • Date: Monday 12 October
  • Time: 15:00-17:00 BST (London)
  • Who should attend: Anyone who wants to explore or understand conversational AI.
  • Number of attendees: 40-60.


This workshop is free to A+T 2020 delegates who have purchased a ticket, on a first-come, first served basis. Have your Ticket Number handy (you will find this on your e-ticket).

By registering, you agree to your name, organisation, and email being passed to the workshop leader(s) for the purposes of communicating with you about this workshop.

Sorry, we have reached the maximum number of registrations for this workshop.