Little_Bot: when Dom Juan brings together Molière and artificial intelligence

As part of the Molière exhibition currently taking place at the BnF in Paris, a chatbot allows you to dialogue virtually with Dom Juan, an emblematic figure of French literature.

It’s called a chatbot. Since the end of September and until January, Litte_Bot punctuates the end of the exhibition Molière, the game of true and false at the BnF (National Library of France) in Paris. Behind this name hides a project initiated four years ago. The encounter between artificial intelligence, the work of Molière – whose four-hundredth anniversary we are celebrating this year –, an artist and… the public.

Born in 1987 in Spain and living in France since 2012, Rocio Berenguer initiated this one-of-a-kind chatbot. Installed at the end of the exhibition, it comes in the form of a kind of bubble split in two in which we sit comfortably in front of a screen to begin talking with the character of Dom Juan. In this “botophone”, a sort of telephone booth, Dom Juan is presented in the form of a face which evolves as the conversation progresses, which “melts” to transform and comes alive according to the conversation.

The poetry of imperfect conversations with chatbots

“I have been working with chatbot concepts for eight years, when the technology was still emergingexplains Rocio Berenguer. In a few years, interactions with artificial intelligences have evolved a lot but, at the time, there was a 60% margin of error in what the chatbot understood when you spoke to it. And it was even worse when, like me, you have an accent. I liked the idea of ​​letting misunderstanding take its place. There is a certain poetry in the bug, in the error. And that forces you to be hyper present in the moment. »

Since then, technology has improved and made it possible to create other situations. Like Litte_Bot, which was fed from the BnF database. “It is both a closed and an open system. Closed, because there is a script, a common thread with questions and answers envisaged. And open because the system creates responses in extenso from the entire semantic corpus of the playwright’s work. » And the work of the artist. Each sentence is unique, but based on all the data on Molière held by the BnF and made available by Cécile Quach, curator and Gallica project manager.

Transfer Dom Juan’s personality into a chatbot

“For a long time, I have been looking for how to dialogue with a workshe explains. The work with the BnF, theArtec University Research School and Belgian society B12 Consulting made it possible to create a unique dialectical system. The difficulty was to bring together the French of the XVIIe century with our 21st century vocabulary and phrasinge century. And then, it was necessary to take into account the style, the personality of Dom Juan. »

Rocio Berenguer discussed at length with Georges Forestier, professor at the Sorbonne and Molière expert, then immersed himself in Dom Juan to understand how the character “worked”. “Each time, there is a common pattern in his encounters. There are the same stages: seduction, provocation or conquest, then flight. Although it’s sometimes disturbing for a chatbot to be a bit rough, I decided that it too would follow this pattern when interacting with the public. »

A wide variety of interactions with the public

Rocio then observed how visitors to the exhibition appropriated the Litte_Bot experience. “Sometimes I’m disappointed with the predictability of humans versus the unpredictability of machines. We are ultimately very unsurprising compared to the very different reactions of artificial intelligence. This one is much more in the absurd and some have difficulty accepting it. However, it can really become something poetic if we play his game”emphasizes the artist.

To accompany the conversation, which sometimes has neither head nor tail and sometimes follows a very logical course, the face that appears on the screen evolves. Taking up the idea of ​​the philosopher Jean Baudrillard, who assumes that seduction is the theft of the desire of the other, the chatbot will gradually steal the desire of the person in front of him and… go as far as ‘to steal his face. The image changes little by little, taking up the faces of previous visitors who have gone through the experience to finally display yours. “It’s quite disturbing to realize that intelligence has stolen our face. A little disturbing, even. But that’s just part of the experience.”concludes Rocio Berenguer.

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Little_Bot: when Dom Juan brings together Molière and artificial intelligence

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