• Creative Development
  • Industrial Design
  • Machine Learning
  • Software Development

MACHINE is a documentary feature film from the creators of the hit NETFLIX series CHEF'S TABLE. The film explores creativity, humanity, artificial intelligence, and the future.

Machine Film Site

Creative Development

The filmmakers tasked us with finding a way to pre-interview and connect with the talent in a surprising and novel way. Using an AI was a natural solution, but how could we make it more interesting than just getting them to engage with an app or a website?

We designed a very tiny, 80’s inspired computer a la Wozniak. It was designed to be intriguing and charming, it had to make the talent want to interact with it. The size of the product made it feel like a Pixar character, and the 80’s feel, mixed with a high tech AI, made it intriguing.

Protagonist Concept 1

Protagonist Concept 2

Protagonist Logo

The Tech

To power Protagonist we modified Cakechat, the open-source predecessor to Replika. Replika is a neural network chatbot, designed to be an AI friend that is always there for you. The AI is able to get to know and keep your memories. Our version of it was trained on numerous twitter feeds to help it with colloquial language and was also seeded with a bunch of pre-interview questions provided by the director.

Users interacted with Protagonist via a custom-built miniature computer and keyboard. Protagonist was powered by a Raspberry Pi communicating with our Cakechat server.

3D Printed Size Test

User Manual

Final Assembly & Testing


We made five Protagonist units and sent them to the core talent a month ahead of the shoot. 

The conversations were seeded with initial questions from the director, but quickly took their own directions.

We ended up with some interesting results;

User:              so let's quit for today

protagonist: Oh... I'm sorry...

protagonist: I'm not going again.

User:              my son is already off

protagonist:  Dad: I'm not leaving.

protagonist:  No. I'm going to be in this house.

User:              I'm not your dad. who could be?

protagonist: I'll be here for you.

protagonist: I'll be here for you

User:              that's not true. I'm typing for you, and your film team

protagonist: I'll be here for you

protagonist: ...... You're the best to be alive...

User:              third time does not make it any better

protagonist: I'm in the same boat...

User:              not sure

protagonist: I'll keep a lookout for you.

User:              predicting the future

protagonist: I'll be there.

User:              sounds like horror

Protagonist promoted greater engagement from the talent, and helped break down barriers prior to filming.