Alien – Artificial Intelligence


Close Encounters of the Radio Kind — an interactive storytelling installation.


Creator — writer, designer, animator and programmer.



PETI, the Institute for the Pursuit of Extraterrestrial Intelligence, finally succeeds. By beaming out a signal through an array of radio telescopes, Dr. Andrej Raspinofski receives word back. But instead of hearing from a planet 22-light-years away, he is contacted by an alien who is broken down near Saturn. The extraterrestrial is willing to talk while he fixes his spaceship.

My Extraterrestrial AI is an exploration into interactive storytelling. I wanted to build a fictional character the user can fully interact with instead of a traditional narrative that is read or viewed. Over time I hope to build this character into a more fully developed “alien” and give the story a character arc. For now, he is up for an engaging chat.


My first real introduction to interactive storytelling was a presentation by Campfire NYC, an agency with an impressive portfolio. As a lifelong storyteller in numerous mediums, I had my doubts about interactive stories. I feared they would lose their power when the user played too big a role, but Mike Monello presented a way to build stories the audience fully participates in that ring true to everything I understand about story structure. It inspired me to try it out.

The actual extraterrestrial character and visual presentation of the project was inspired by many brilliant science fiction filmmakers and writers from Ridley Scott to Philip K. Dick, but with the sheer volume of books and movies I have consumed in my lifetime, I am hard pressed to narrow it down to a specific title.


Elena Parker, also of Campfire NYC, gave me the most solid research base for the work. She sent me many articles on coding artificial intelligence, websites for well known chatbots and told me to read The Most Human Human by Brian Christian. That book opened my eyes in so many ways. And I cannot thank my professors, Lauren McCarthy and Benedetta Piantella, enough. This project would never have existed without them.


The program is written in JavaScript. I use webkit speech recognition to listen to the user and turn the verbal information into written text. From there, the logic is built mostly with keywords to choose how the alien will answer, including responses if a keyword is not recognized. The visual interface was designed in Photoshop and animated in After Effects. The brilliant voice of my extraterrestrial is my better half, Philip Goldsmith.