I’ve been a big fan of Botnik Studios, the comedy group responsible for internet gems like the neural network-generated Coachella lineup poster containing bands like “Billions of Mario.” They’ve been putting out consistently great parodies of Scrubs scripts, ads for beef, and handsome names for boats, each of them made using a predictive text keyboard. I was curious about what exactly this meant and how I, too, could utilize AI to create viral hits, so I called up Botnik Studios CEO and former Clickhole writer Jamie Brew to explain in the video above.
Botnik has a browser-based Predictive Writer that you can load up with “voices”, hence its name, Voicebox. It works in a similar way to your phone’s predictive text, by suggesting a group of words based on the context of the other words in the message. The suggestions are based on the source material you upload, which can be anything from TV show scripts to song lyrics. Voicebox comes pre-loaded with some source materials, but the real fun comes from creating your own. You can even combine two sources, like the text from Fire & Fury and McDonald’s item menus.
Voicebox should be considered more as a writing tool rather than a meme generator that just dumps out a bunch of words, because the end result really rests on how good of a writer you are. You have to guide the Voicebox to suggest the right words, and it’s a little bit like AI Mad Libs in a way. You can shuffle your word choices if you don’t see anything you like, or you can save words if you see a particularly good one.
Personally, I think the best Botnik creations are things that are visually open to parody, so to test it out, I tried my hand at making my own predictive keyboard based on Sanrio characters. I then let these personality descriptions guide their appearances and drew my own characters. To compare, here’s an example of Hello Kitty’s real bio on the Sanrio website:
And here are my own Sanrio characters with their descriptions generated through Voicebox:
To do this, I copied the Wikipedia entry for ‘List of Sanrio characters’, put it into a .txt file and uploaded it to the Predictive Writer. I tried to mimic the official Sanrio bio formats in my descriptions, filling it in with hobbies, birthday facts, and their places in Sanrio history. Sanrio character bios are already pretty strange, so I don’t think these new characters were that much of a stretch, but it was still a good exercise in creative writing. Botnik has a Facebook group for people to share their work and experiments, so if you’re ready to get started, there’s always a community that can give feedback.