Sunspring debuted at the SCI-FI LONDON film festival in 2016. Set in a dystopian world with mass unemployment, the movie attracted many fans, with one viewer describing it as amusing but strange. But the most notable aspect of the film involves its creation: an artificial-intelligence (AI) bot wrote Sunspring’s screenplay.
ome researchers have already used machine learning to identify emotional arcs in stories. One method, developed at the University of Vermont, involved having computers scan text—video scripts or book content—to construct arcs.
We decided to go a step further. Working as part of a broader collaboration between MIT’s Lab for Social Machines and McKinsey’s Consumer Tech and Media team, we developed machine-learning models that rely on deep neural networks to “watch” small slices of video—movies, TV, and short online features—and estimate their positive or negative emotional content by the second.
These models consider all aspects of a video—not just the plot, characters, and dialogue but also more subtle touches, like a close-up of a person’s face or a snippet of music that plays during a car-chase scene. When the content of each slice is considered in total, the story’s emotional arc emerges.