News / Toronto

Coming to a city near you: Canada's first robot poet

A robot that can create poetry? No kidding.

Not only that. This invention from the creators of the popular hitchBOT – which shot to fame last year after hitchhiking across Canada and Germany – also has active Twitter and Facebook accounts.

And that’s where you realize that kulturBOT is just that: a robot.

“It can only create sentences that are grammatically correct but don’t make any sense,” said Frauke Zeller, assistant professor in professional communication at Ryerson University.

It’s almost the same way a computer can master grammar, but it would be difficult to teach it about meaning, she said.

So, it’s not surprising that kulturBOT’s Twitter feed is full of sentences such as “Hat can only be violent speed!” and “we are out of balm for the first will find in an outspot, facing an automobile with innumerable towns!”

Zeller, who collaborated on the bot with David Harris Smith from McMaster University, said they wanted to use technology to add something into people’s cultural and social interactions.

Built from parts of a vacuum cleaner, a yellow lemon juicer and with a pasta strainer as a cranium, the original kulturBOT was equipped with a camera and deployed in museums and galleries to snap pictures.

Now evolving into a self-publishing poet, its strainer contains a small printer that helps emit words based on robotics and text algorithms, Zeller said.

The robot-poet will join other Canadian poets as they set out this week on the Great Canadian PoeTrain tour. Designed to help mark April as national poetry month, the tour starts in Ottawa and ends in Vancouver, running through Toronto, Winnipeg and Edmonton.

“We are excited about this human-robot poetry kind of collaboration,” said David Brydges, artistic director of PoeTrain 2015.

The tour is like a poetry festival that travels city to city on train. Poet laureate George Elliot Clarke is expected to join the team on Friday as they make their first stop in Toronto.

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