Mimetic television

homesparrowsvideo game machinemimetic televisionmusic machinefilmmaking robotopo

Mimetic Television.

A Mimetic Television watches and imitates other video, usually broadcast TV, learning its patterns of motion, colour and composition in order to make new images that move in a similar way.

Shortland Street emulator

The Mimetic Television shown here has been watching the New Zealand medical soap opera, Shortland Street, and is producing video that looks a bit like doctors and nurses in indoor settings. These pictures are not derived from any particular images it has seen, but are created afresh based on its impressions of the series as a whole.

A Mimetic Television can create an endless stream of video based on a very small sample, but as it sees more it learns to generalise better and can assuredly extrapolate into televisual areas that the original does not venture. If a the Television watches a program repeatedly, its output will change over time as it grows more familiar with the formal rules of the video.

How it works

The Mimetic TV receives broadcast pictures via the normal method, via an aerial. It breaks the incoming stream into a sequence of frames, and looks at the changes between each frame. From this it builds a statistical model of how the video tends to change. It then throws away the actual image, remembering only the patterns in which it moved (in contrast, the Filmmaking Robot remembers each frame as a still picture, but forgets the way in which they move, resulting in naïve and chaotic motion). The Mimetic TV imitates, while the Robot judges, and produces a smoother but less distinct picture. Because it forgets everything it sees, its output is lacking in detail, as if it were seen through frosted glass.

It is running Debian Linux and specialised software written in C, and is physically constructed out of wood, metal and computer parts.


These videos were made by the Mimetic Television after watching several episodes of Shortland Street in mid-2006:

Not working? try going directly to Google video

go directly to Google video.

Last modified November 2010.