MIT Researchers Bring a Horror Fiction-Writing Robot Named Shelley to Life

October 30, 2017, 4:05 PM UTC

With its increasingly humanlike design, artificial intelligence gives many people the creeps—though usually not intentionally. But a new robot named “Shelley,” released to the public just in time for Halloween, was created specifically to terrify.

According to its Twitter page, the bot is “the world’s first collaborative AI horror writer.” Shelley—named after Frankenstein author Mary Shelley—is the brainchild of Pınar Yanardağ, a postdoctoral associate who works at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab, and was created in collaboration with research scientist Manuel Cebrian and associate professor Iyad Rahwan, reports Turkish news site Daily Sabah.

Like most AI bots, Shelley “learns” by being fed data. In this case, the dataset is Reddit’s r/nosleep forum, where amateur authors share their original horror stories. Together, these writers have produced about 700 megabytes of horror over the past decade—much more than actually exists in the genre, reports San Francisco-based blog SFGate. “If you look at all the literature by Lovecraft or Stephen King or Edgar Allan Poe, it would be just a few megabytes,” Cebrian tells the blog. “We would still not have enough data.”

Shelley (@shelley_ai) tweets an opening line to a collaborative horror story every hour. Other Twitter users can then continue the story with another line ending in the hashtag #yourturn. An example:

The bot follows a similar experiment from the same MIT team called the “Nightmare Machine,” which uses AI to create horror imagery.