Increasingly, machine learning is being employed to make our lives more productive, efficient and convenient. [ML] Shadow Play is a playful attempt to acknowledge applications of the machine in roles less utilitarian. This project places the machine in the character of a storyteller, exploring the use of machine learning and computer vision as part of the storytelling mechanism in shadow puppetry.

The machine learns to recognise the dark shapes and blobs projected on the screen, generating the correct background output for the relevant shadowy characters and props. Complexities arise, in the true nature of shadow theatre, with the nested overlapping of layers, where initial outputs (backgrounds) blend together with the additions of inputs (props) to tell the story. 

In this installation, the story of Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak was adapted. Sometimes erroneous, sometimes slow, the machine adopts the role of the, somewhat, trusty other hand of the puppeteer in the re-telling of this classic tale.

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Collaborator: Marianna Chrapana