Ghostwriter typewriter brings generative AI to the printed page

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Rfrom 1992 to 1995, ghost writerthe beloved children’s TV show from PBS, followed a diverse group of friends as they solved mysteries around their Brooklyn neighborhood using their haunted typewriter, a cursed object possessed by the trapped soul of a murdered escaped Civil War slave. THE Ghostwriter typewriter developed by an interaction designer, artist and CTO, Arvind Sanjeev, on the other hand, has none of the paranormal blocks of his coincidental namesake. Instead of a spirit tied to this hellish plane of existence, forced to help tweens solve low-stakes puzzles, the deus in Sanjeev’s machina is powered by OpenAI’s GPT-3.

He first conceived of this artistic endeavor in 2021 as a “poetic intervention that allows us to take a moment to breathe and reflect on this new creative relationship we are forming with machines”. Built over weekends and evenings, Ghostwriter interacts with its user through the written word, allowing the two to converse and co-create freely through the physical medium of paper.

“I wanted Ghostwriter to evoke warm feelings and make people feel comfortable playing with it,” Sanjeev told Engadget via email. “I chose the mental model of the typewriter for this reason. It’s an artifact of our past, a world where technology was more physical and concerned with people’s lives.

“People trust typewriters and feel comfortable with them because they know their sole purpose is simply to create stories on paper,” he added. “This is contrary to today’s technology, to the black boxes that attempt to propagate unethical business models based on the attention economy.”

Ghostwriter started out as a vintage Brother AX-325 electronic typewriter (chosen because of its encodable keyboard array). Sanjeev chose the GPT-3 model partly because of his familiarity with it from his position as an adjunct professor at ICID and partly because of his impressive “ability to generate creative content”, he noted. “The easily accessible API convinced me to integrate this into Ghostwriter.”

Sanjeev removed much of the machine’s existing mechanical innards and replaced it with an Arduino and Raspberry Pi controller. The arduino reads what the human user typed on Ghostwriter’s keyboard, then passes that input to the OpenAI’s GPT-3 API via the built-in Raspberry. The AI ​​does its generative magic, spits out an answer, and Ghostwriter dutifully prints it out on the person’s reading page.

“The Ghostwriter’s slow tactile responses made people meditatively read each word one after the other, bringing out all the quirks and nuances of the AI ​​through its finer detail,” Sanjeev said.
“Quick number interactions that live on a word editor tend to hide things like this unintentionally.”

Training the system to press the correct keys in response proved to be one of the biggest challenges of the project. Sanjeev first had to decode the matrix of the existing electronic keyboard – the device that converts the physical pressure of a key into its corresponding digital signal. “I pressed each key, read its triggered signal scanlines, mapped it to the corresponding key, and finally created a driver that worked on an Arduino,” he writes. Users can even influence AI responses using two physical buttons that adjust Ghostwriter’s “creativity” and “response length” settings.

Ghostwriter will sadly remain unique for a bit longer, though Sanjeev is working to open the project up so makers around the world can create their own. “I hope to have some time to clean up the code and wrap everything up soon,” he said.

“Generative AI is definitely not a fad,” Sanjeev said, although it’s not a magic bullet for content creation either. “This is proof that we have passed the tipping point in AI creativity that AI pioneers thought was impossible,” he continued.

These tools help shape our ideas and can even inspire new ones, but ultimately they are just tools for our creativity, not substitutes. “AI is a glorified brush that a painter can use to tell their stories,” Sanjeev said. “Humanity and life will always be at the center of any successful work, whether or not it is done by AI.”

a gif of a small integrated led screen displaying the word

Arvind Sanjeev

The ultimate applications of GPT will depend on the medium in which it is used – as an active and convenient instrument for creating digital content, but rather as a “library of inspirational ideas” for creators in the space. physical. “The key to unlocking the potential of chatGPT in authoring spaces is in creating meaningful physical interfaces,” he said. “The role of an artist or creator using AI becomes that of a bona fide curator who selects the best AI works, filters them, and passes them on to the next phase of the design process.”

He also expects similar synergy from knowledge workers. Automated text generation systems have come under intense media and industry scrutiny in recent months amid the growing popularity of ChatGPT. Technology has proven itself adept at everything from writing Linux code and haiku poetry to Wharton Business School entrance exams and CNet financial explanations. Knowledge workers – lawyers, business analysts and journalists, among myriad others – rightly fear that such automated systems could be used to replace them, as BuzzFeed recently did for its newsroom.

However, Sanjeev thinks AI will instead have a less visible role to play, instead flowing from its generalist creative uses specializing in specific areas of knowledge as it goes. “Just like how cloud computing has become ubiquitous and powers most applications today, AI will also become ubiquitous and retreat into the background of our lives once the hype cycle wears off. will fade,” Sanjeev explained.

The AI ​​revolution is expected to ease the rigors of these tasks and automate many of the more tedious aspects of the job. “The ability to synthesize large amounts of niche data aimed specifically at fields such as software engineering, law, and business is used to train hyper-specialized AIs for those respective fields,” Sanjeev noted.

OpenAI itself offers custom training packages for its systems so that customers can more easily create their own custom AI doctors and robolawyers. Who ultimately bears the blame when something goes wrong – whether it’s an AI doctor who makes quack diagnoses or an AI lawyer who gets disbarred from the bar – remains an important question with few easy answers.

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