The Laughing Room

“Cambridge is the birthplace of artificial intelligence, and this installation gives us an opportunity to think about the new roles that AI is playing in our lives every day. It was important to us to set the installations in the Cambridge Public Library and MIT Libraries, where they could spark an open conversation at the intersections of art and science.”

Stephanie Frampton, Project Co-Lead and Associate Professor of Literature, MIT




In November 2018, ARTificial Intelligence and the Cambridge Public Library presented an installation of MIT PhD candidate Jonny Sun’s new interactive media piece, The Laughing Room, with a companion installation, The Control Room, hosted in parallel at the MIT Hayden Library.

The Laughing Room is an artificially intelligent room and interactive art installation that plays a laugh track whenever the participants say something that the room’s algorithm deems to be funny. The installation looks like a TV sitcom set, but the room is equipped with a system of microphones and speakers connected to a machine learning algorithm created by Hannah Davis using a large dataset of audio transcripts of stand-up comedians. The algorithm determines the vocal inflections and patterns that precede laughter and then reacts to the voices of the participants from the general public who “perform” to the room.

The Control Room installation displayed what happened in The Laughing Room at the Cambridge Public Library. Several large screens showed different views of The Laughing Room, including real-time streaming video and audio of the exhibit itself, as well as live-streams from social media feeds such as Periscope/Twitter, Instagram Live, and Facebook Live.

The Laughing Room addresses the increasingly social and cultural roles of technology, and users’ agency within and dependence on these emerging social systems. In consort with The Laughing Room, ARTificial Intelligence offered a series of workshops, talks, curated library displays and off-campus events about AI and society and the history of AI at MIT, using art making and curation as forms of knowledge production and creative research.

Project leads:
Stephanie Frampton, Associate Professor of Literature at MIT
Jonny Sun, Artist and PhD Candidate, Department of Urban Studies + Planning, MIT

Hannah Davis, Programmer and Generative Musician
Christopher Sun, Project Manager
MIT Libraries
Cambridge Public Library
MIT Literature Section
The Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society

Launched: November 2018


More information

ARTificial Intelligence

MIT News: Inside the Laughing Room

The Boston Globe: The VIP Lounge with Jonny Sun

Interrogating AI Through Audience Interaction

An interactive art installation that plays a laugh track whenever the participants say something its algorithm deems to be funny