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Fairy Tale App Produces Many Happy Endings

Once upon a time in a land far, far away, a designer unveiled a book that told a different fairy tale each time to each reader. The book would help parents invent new stories for their kids, and let the kids have a hand in making the story.
/ Source: InnovationNewsDaily.com

Once upon a time in a land far, far away, a designer unveiled a book that told a different fairy tale each time to each reader. The book would help parents invent new stories for their kids, and let the kids have a hand in making the story.

That time was the recent Paris Design Week, the place was the Cité de la Mode et du Design, and the designer was David Benqué, whose mobile app will allow parents to create original fairy tales to tell to their children.

Named "The Infinite Adventure Machine," Benqué's app is structured similarly to "MadLibs." The app provides prompts to the storyteller based on the 31 universal characteristics of folk tales identified by the philosopher Vladimir Propp. Each prompt includes a 3-D picture of the scene and simple plot instructions about what elements the story needs at that point, such as a mystical encounter or a loss of treasure.

"I was particularly interested in whether generative narrative was something that was around the corner or far off in the future. What I found was that many attempts at artificial intelligence attempted to create stories, but none of them were successful. That was the space I wanted to explore," Benqué told InnovationNewsDaily. "All of the other, more-computer-science attempts I came across, all used algorithms that I couldn't engage with. But Propp’s theory, although it was simple and has been criticized a lot, is a sort of open source that I could program with."

According to Propp, all traditional fairy tales begin with the hero leaving home and meeting an enemy. Then the hero succumbs to the enemy's trickery, the villain attempts to harm the hero's family, the hero strikes back, beats the villain and wins a prize. "The Infinite Adventure Machine" walks the parent through those steps but leaves it to their own imagination to describe the villain, the challenges, the hero and the eventual reward.

Benqué designed the app with software engineers from the Royal College of Arts, London; Microsoft Research in Cambridge, England; and the Microsoft Office development team. He unveiled its first version during Paris Design Week, which ended Sept. 18.

Despite the affiliation with Microsoft, Benque has no plans to develop "The Infinite Adventure Machine" into a commercial product. However, a number of children's improvisational theaters have expressed an interest in incorporating the app into their performances.

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