The Dark side of Artificial Intelligence

The design team for Life Hutch VR has been hard at work finishing off the robot ELLIS and has done an exceptional job of creating a pivotal character that can express itself and make a lasting impression on the audience. The plot of Life Hutch asks a lot out of ELLIS. The robot is part butler, part construction worker, with a little bit of psychotic mixed in. The emotional impact of Life Hutch VR relies heavily on understanding how ELLIS fits into the science fiction universe created by Harlan Ellison and how ELLIS evolves into a threatening force that drives the rest of the story to its conclusion. ELLIS must be a friend and partner, but also transform into something frightening with dark intentions not unlike the main character of The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

Written in 1956, Life Hutch is also an early warning about the risks created by artificial intelligence and the error-prone humans who write software. Amazing things are happening today that enrich our digital lives thanks to artificial intelligence and machine learning platforms like Google’s TensorFlow. Amazon suggests products, cars drive themselves, and financial trading happens at a speed that exceeds humans capabilities. But what are the consequences if it all goes wrong? We have added a subplot giving ELLIS the backstory he required and ask the question: Is ELLIS evil or just programmed that way? (Credit to Jessica Rabbit "I'm not bad. I'm just drawn that way"). Bad robots are all too commonplace in fiction and not very interesting, while the gray area between good and evil is often the most rich for storytelling. We have introduced Suresh Perez, a maintenance worker from the Mexico City of the future, to fill in the pieces of ELLIS's past and help the viewer make sense of things. Suresh also has reason to visit the life hutch. He is there to make sure everything is working, including the maintenance robot. Needless to say, things don’t turn out as expected…

Lighting plays a key role in the VR experience and helps the player understand the passage of time.

This test was done to explore how ELLIS (pictured here as a yellow capsule) would look in different lighting conditions.

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