Performing with an Improv Robot

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Key Responsibilities:

  • Project leader
  • Primary designer of Robot Improv Puppet Theatre
  • Coordinated and lead a 2-hour user study with 7 professional improvisers participating (included video-recording, demographic questionnaires, system walk-through, semi-structured group interview, and time for the actors to use the system/perform with the system)
  • Transcribed video-recordings of user study and performed open coding on the data
  • Primary writer for our full length research paper based on the data from our user study
  • Researched, created, and executed a 20-minute presentation at a computer science conference in Hong Kong
  • Helped coordinate demos
  • Performed as an improviser alongside our robot in all demos

Project Description: (abstract

In improvisational theatre (improv), actors perform unscripted scenes together, collectively creating a narrative. Audience suggestions introduce randomness and build audience engagement, but can be challenging to mediate at scale. We present Robot Improv Puppet Theatre (RIPT), which includes a performance robot (Pokey) who performs gestures and dialogue in short-form improv scenes based on audience input from a mobile interface. We evaluated RIPT in several initial informal performances, and in a rehearsal with seven professional improvisers. The improvisers noted how audience prompts can have a big impact on the scene – highlighting the delicate balance between ambiguity and constraints in improv. The open structure of RIPT performances allows for multiple interpretations of how to perform with Pokey, including one-on-one conversations or multi-performer scenes. While Pokey lacks key qualities of a good improviser, improvisers found his serendipitous dialogue and gestures particularly rewarding.


UIST 2017 Student Innovation Contest (Quebec City)
Interactions Lab Demo Day 2018 (University of Calgary)
Computer Science Showcase 2018 (University of Calgary)
DIS 2018 (Hong Kong)
Beakerhead 2018 (Calgary)


DIS 2018 (Hong Kong)


Frederik Højlund Westergård, Jonathan Komang-Sønderbek, Malthe Emil Blichfeldt, Jonas Fritsch, Tiffany Wun, Claire Mikalauskas, Kevin Ta, Joshua Horacsek, Lora Oehlberg, Daisuke Uriu, William Odom, Mei-Kei Lai, Masahiko Inami, Harvey Bewley, and Laurens Boer. 2019. Demo hour. Interactions 26, 2 (February 2019), 10-13. DOI:

Claire Mikalauskas, Tiffany Wun, Kevin Ta, Joshua Horacsek, and Lora Oehlberg. 2018. Improvising with an Audience-Controlled Robot Performer. In Proceedings of the 2018 on Designing Interactive Systems Conference 2018 (DIS ’18). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 657-666. DOI:

Tiffany Wun, Claire Mikalauskas, Kevin Ta, Joshua Horacsek, and Lora Oehlberg. 2018. RIPT: Improvising with an Audience-Sourced Performance Robot. In Proceedings of the 19th International ACM SIGACCESS Conference on Computers and Accessibility (DIS ’18). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 323-326. DOI:

Project Team:

Claire Mikalauskas
Tiffany Wun
Kevin Ta
Joshua John Horacsek
Lora Oehlberg