Project Overview

ARC Investigators: Dennis Del Favero, Jeffrey Shaw, Steve Benford, Johannes Goebel
Programmers: Adrian Hardjono, Jared Berghold, Som Guan, Alex Kupstov. Piyush Bedi, Rob Lawther
Project Funding: ARC DP0556659

Scenario installation view

Scenario is a world-first 360-degree 3D cinematic installation whose narrative is interactively produced by the audience and humanoid characters imbued with artificial intelligence (AI). The title is a Commedia dell’Arte term, referring to how the dramatic action depends on the way actors and audience interact.

Scenario is inspired by the experimental television work of Samuel Beckett. A female humanoid character has been imprisoned in a concealed basement, along with her four children by her father, who lives above ground with his daytime family. Set within this underground labyrinth, she and her children take the audience through various basement spaces in an attempt to discover the possible ways in which they and the audience can resolve the mystery of their imprisonment and so effect an escape before certain death. Watching them are a series of shadowy humanoid sentinels who track the family and the audience, physically trying to block their escape.

Rapidly interpreting and responding to audience behaviour by means of a sophisticated AI system, the humanoid sentinels work effortlessly to try and block the audience and the family at every turn. This two-fold dramatic action enables the work to create a narrative that evolves according to how the humanoids and the audience physically interact with each other. This is effected by means of a vision system that tracks the audience’s behaviour, linked to an AI system that allows the humanoids to independently interpret and respond to audience behaviour.

Scenario video documentation


Scenario investigates the differences in narrative reasoning between humanoids and human participants in interactive cinema. It proposes that when humanoids are provided with a modest ability to sense and interpret the actions of human participants sharing a digital cinematic environment, their interactive responses will co-evolve autonomously with those of human participants. In an experimental encounter with human participants, inspired by Samuel Beckett’s Quad 1 + 2, the study tests the narrative autonomy of humanoids as the capacity to make independent decisions using AI language.


The project has three key research objectives:

  • Explain co-evolutionary narrative as the interaction between human participants and autonomous humanoids. Narrative autonomy of humanoids is defined as their capacity to act in reference to a vision tracking system that tracks the human participants, using an Artificial Intelligence (AI) system, in consultation with a knowledge database. The implementation of narrative autonomy by humanoids is twofold. Firstly, a humanoid is obliged to act on its own decision-making in response to meanings they ascribe to human behaviour. Secondly, a humanoid’s motivation can be expressed through their behavioural response.
  • Test outcomes of co-evolutionary interaction between human participants and humanoids in a cinematic experiment. Scenario involves the apprehension, interpretation and response by multiple humanoids to clusters of more than one human participant, thus focusing upon group interaction.
  • Evaluate the significance of co-evolutionary narrative as a condition of: differentiated clarity in sensing and tracking; autonomy recoverable in the deliberation of humanoids; quality of aesthetic conviction in the co-evolutionary responses of humanoids and human participants.


  • Jeffrey Shaw & Hu Jieming Twofold Exhibition, Chronus Art Centre, Shanghai, 2014/15
  • Child, Nation & World Cinema Symposium, UNSW, Sydney, 2014
  • ISEA13, UNSW, Sydney, 2013
  • Sydney Film Festival, Sydney, 2011
  • 15th Biennal Film & History Conference, UNSW, Sydney, 2010