Welcome to Robot TV… ‘What the Robot Saw’ (v 0.3 … still work in progress…) is the documentary work of a robot paparazzi experimental filmmaker. It’s also a massively durational online robo-performance and archive. A perpetual, robot-generated livestream film, ‘What the Robot Saw’ is constantly curated, edited, and archived algorithmically from among the least viewed and subscribed YouTube videos uploaded over the past several hours. As the contrarian Robot/AI filmmaker makes its way through the world of low engagement online video, it obsessively focuses its attention on people other robots have omitted from our attention.

The stream is at 1080p, so please check that the YouTube player is set for the highest resolution your network connection will handle (gear icon on lower right of the player.) Fullscreen or Theatre Mode is recommended (net conditions permitting.) If the stream isn’t live, you can find recent archives here.

Humans have a complicated relationship with robots. Especially the documentarians… An invisible audience of software robots continually analyze content on the Internet. Videos by non-“YouTube stars” that algorithms don’t promote to the top of the search rankings or the “recommended” sidebar may be seen by few or no human viewers. For these videos, robots may be the primary audience. In ‘What the Robot Saw,’ the Robot is AI voyeur turned cinematographer, depicting and magnifying the online personas of the subjects of a never-ending film.

Using computer vision, neural networks, and other robotic ways of seeing, hearing, and understanding, the Robot continually selects and edits recently uploaded public YouTube clips from among those with low subscriber and view counts, focusing on personal videos. A loose, stream-of-consciousness narrative is developed as the Robot organizes the clips as a drift through neural network-determined groupings. As the Robot scans and magnifies the clips, it generates the film in a style fitting its own obsessions, streaming it live back to YouTube for public viewing. Dated archives are then generated on YouTube for each daypart, offering a theoretically endless, on-demand archive of the videos few humans got to see. The film navigates a slice of social media that’s overlooked by the usual search and recommendation algorithms — thus largely only visible to robo-algorithmic voyeurs. 

‘What the Robot Saw’ is a non-commercial project. This is version 0.3-alpha, an initial implementation. Additional work is in progress in which the AI documentarian will more transparently reveal how it sees us.

The live streams run throughout the day; there are brief “intermissions” every four hours (and as needed for maintenance.) An extensive archive auto-documenting previous streams — and thus a piece of YouTube in realtime — is available on the Videos page and the YouTube Channel.

Although the YouTube live stream is central to the project, the technical limitations of live streaming mean the image and sound quality are not ideal and may vary with network conditions. A high quality stream can be generated locally for art installations and screenings.