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The first digital writing residency funded by the Australia Council for the Arts will launch tonight at the Queensland University of Technology with a project that challenges our perception about robots and entertainment.

It’s proved so successful, the Council is opening applications for a new project.

At Robot University, the public can use touchscreens to interact with three machines, all with their own personalities, histories and occupations.

Creator Christy Dena, now an Adjunct Professor with QUT’s Creative Industries Faculty, hopes that the more a person interacts with the trio of robots the more empathy they will feel for them.

Here in Australia, our culture is heavily influenced by Hollywood and we’ve generally come to see robots as killing machines rather than companions, Prof Dena said.

But the reality is that robots will play an increasingly visible role in our everyday lives into the future and we need to be mentally prepared to accept them into our homes and workplaces.

Robot University is designed to help progress the national conversation about how we treat these machines do we want to be known in the annals of history as champions for the ethical treatment of robots or as cold masters to a race of robot slaves?

Robot University is now on public display at The Cube, QUT’s international award-winning digital interactive learning and display space.

The project is a unique digital writing feat, and one of the most complex ever undertaken in Australia.

Built using the game engine Unity, Professor Dena spent six months developing Robot University with her technical team, Adam Single (programming), Jacek Tuschewski (sound designing), Paul Stapelberg (3D modelling, animation), Simon Boxer (concept and environmental art) and Oscar Guillen (interface art).

Professor Dena said the game-like environment for digital storytelling is something Australian families will see and experience more of in the coming years.

This is a great example of the next-generation entertainment we can expect, Prof Dena said.

Robot University offers people a mix of interactive digital characters that appeal to both children and adults, which provides an enriched experience.

During play testing, I was really impressed by how willing parents were to pick their kids up and play’ with the robots together it’s an environment that really promotes a shared experience, and that can easily lead to further discussions at home about the key issues raised in Robot University.

The Australia Council for the Arts will tonight launch another digital writing residency using the advanced technology of The cube, only the second the organisation has funded.

Australia Council Director Literature Jill Eddington said the Council was pleased to partner with QUT for a second year on this exciting initiative and announce the opening of applications.

The literature panel was keen to support this project for another year because it puts writers and the narrative at the heart of this innovative use of technology and digital display, Ms Eddington said.

The Cube presents a unique opportunity for the writer in residence to interact not only with the technological potential of the space but also to collaborate with QUT researchers and students. It provides a rare opportunity for engaging audiences of all ages with a combination of literature, science, mathematics and engineering.

Christy Dena provided a fascinating interactive narrative on our attitudes towards artificial intelligence with her Robot University project. It has resulted not only in the creation of a wonderful new work, but it has also provided a deeper understanding of the potential of digital platforms for writers to connect with audiences.

Digital storytellers have until 3 April to lodge their applications.

To apply go to:

QUT acknowledges the support of our Cube Partners Ausenco, ALS Limited, SGI and AMX.

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