Welcome to your live robo-generated, AI-assured, post-sensational media transmission… in defense of the boring… work in progress… live (passing through right now.)

‘What the Robot Saw’ (v 0.1 alpha) is a perpetual, robot-generated livestream film, curated, animated and edited algorithmically from among the least viewed and subscribed YouTube videos uploaded over the past few hours. A Robot/AI filmmaker makes its way through the world of low engagement online video, focusing its attention on people who don’t usually get attention.

If the stream isn’t live, you can find recent archives here.

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. 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. 

As time zones sleep and wake, ‘What the Robot Saw’ follows the circadian rhythms of the world’s uploads. So tune in now and then. Robots never sleep*.

‘What the Robot Saw’ is a non-commercial project. This is version 0.1-alpha, an initial implementation. There’s work still to be done in terms of structure, timing, sound, and AI. Versions focused on different content will also likely be spawned in the future.

* The live stream runs throughout the day; there are “intermissions” every four hours (and as needed for maintenance.) Archives of some recent streams are available on the Videos page or on 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.