Robonk AI Comic Strip Improvements

The software the builds Robonk has been significantly retooled for the next 256 strips. Lots of changes have happened. The rendering of the robot has become more rich, the robot has changed ever so slightly (and gained a new rug), panels are generated entirely in a new version of Bubblematic called Panelmatic (plus Titlematic for generating the title pages), the dating profile database has been reloaded, and there’s mild improvements for the script generation system.

New look and software

Robonk #00200-02

New robot rendering

The robot views are now rendered in POV-Ray, a “high-quality, Free Software tool for creating stunning three-dimensional graphics”. POV-Ray allows for a series of still images to be rendered with lighting effects. Being a command line tool that accepts options arguments, I was able to use PHP-CLI to call for the full series of angles and facial expressions needed to generate the panels for the strip.

Slightly modified robot with a new rug

Robonk (the robot) looks about the same, but there are changes:

  1. The tablet was shortened. It cuts less through the robot’s arm than before.
  2. The mouth and eye whites have been mildly moved from where they were. The eyeballs still stick out.
  3. Tiny changes to body element sizes.

The biggest change is the new rug. Before, it was the workplane in TinkerCAD, and now it’s an “actual” drawn rug.

Panelmatic/Titlematic

  • Main Panels: Originally, the panels were composed in Photoshop with screenshots from TinkerCAD (strips #00000-#000FF). Later (strips #00100-#001FF), strips were created from Bubblematic (which drew the talk bubbles and fade background) and TinkerCAD (robot, chair, and rug) then merged together in Photoshop. The main panels are now generated in a browser-based program called Panelmatic (which was created from the older Bubblematic).
  • Texas Instruments Dataman educational calculatorTitle Panels: Title panels were made in Photoshop, using an action to scale and rotate the text on the robot’s tablet for each strip. Now, this is all done via Titlematic, a new tool using a web browser to generate the title panels. The title font for the strip was changed (with inspiration from the Texas Instruments Dataman educational calculator from 1977), the tablet has a new font, and the scene uses a different angle plus updated graphics from POV-Ray.

The biggest change with all of this is that Photoshop and TinkerCAD are no longer needed to generate a comic strip. A big savings in creation time while having an improved look.

Dating profile database reload

The database load was dirty (beyond just the content in the tables) and there was missing data. Everything was rebuilt/reloaded and now there’s more available profiles to draw from, and they’re more complete as well. The next set of strips (#00200-#002FF) will have more usernames on the title panels by percentage than before because the database is more complete.

Script generation

Behind the scenes, the script generation system Robonkers has seen mild improvements, which make everything easier to work with. It rejects a higher percentage of profiles compared to the earlier versions, but there’s more overall profiles to work with because the database reload increased the overall amount of accessible profiles. The character name for the human in the source dialogue is now “human:” rather than “you:”.

In conclusion

Robonk is ready to go for another 256 strips, and this will be the basis for the next 256.

Robonk AI Comic Books

AI Comic Books

The first 256 strips Robonk book and the two coloring books for adults

Door Key Publishing logoThe first Robonk books are designed, printed, and bound! There’s three books total:

  • The First 256 Strips (#00000-#000FF)
  • Coloring Book for Adults!: #00000
  • Coloring Book for Adults!: #00001

All are self-published under the Door Key Publishing name. “If it’s hilariously awkward, it’s Door Key.”

The First 256 Strips

As the title says, it’s the first 256 strips in the original style. Includes source info for the strips, plus the blog posts from that era are in the back of the book. I never thought I’d write a book, but come to think of it, artificial intelligence (AI) and online dating profiles wrote most of it, not me. There was a chunk of data migration and programming that created the book, with most of the pages completely (or partially) built in PHP using the TCPDF library.

Book structure diagram

Diagram from the book, showing how the strip pages and source pages work

The book features all of the original 256 strips plus the source, which is available at Robonk.com by clicking on “Source” under each comic strip.

Coloring Books for Adults!

AI coloring bookThis was an afterthought. Figured I could make coloring book versions of many of the strips. Wrote some software to convert the panel art into line drawings, then more software to convert the completed panels into pages. Had enough useful strips to make it two volumes. The coloring books are entirely made from strips from the second 256 set (#00100-#001FF) and were built into books by PHP/TCPDF. Each page features one strip (minus the title panel) plus the “Posted in” information from Robonk.com (WordPress) and a QR code with a link to the strip. The books not sent through USPS Media Mail come with red and blue crayons.

What’s next?

There will likely be a compilation book for the second 256 strips at some point, but I’m currently working on the new look and software for strips #00200-#002FF which will debut in early 2022.

Three Years of AI Comic Strips

3 years and 512 completed strips later, Robonk lives on!

Thanks to the Robonk fans.

It’s fun to build out a radical concept as a series. Fun to see that it works. Life is awkward when you’re a dorky guy with an undergraduate degree in communications and you have a comic strip series you don’t write or draw, and here I am. The strangest it got was at a Comic Con last year, where a surprising amount of the reaction to Robonk could be translated to “you ain’t one of us”. Imagine being the outcast to the (often) self-proclaimed outcasts. That happened. Such is life when coming up with the new things. On the upside, creating a new genre of comic strip series is awesome!

Robonk Coloring Book

Preview of the Robonk coloring book look

So what’s ahead for Robonk? A pile of stuff, actually, including…

  • The first Robonk book. It’s done but hasn’t been published yet.
  • Robonk coloring book: That’s right, Robonk coloring book!

Thanks to…

We’re over half way to strip 1,000… …and beyond!

Robonkers : How Robonk Comic Strip Scripts Are Now Generated With AI

Robonk is very different from other comic strips. Most notably, it is written by 1960s-style Artificial Intelligence (AI) called ELIZA responding to online adultery dating profiles. The early process was to copy/paste the lines from the dating profiles into ELIZA. This process was notably more labor intensive than desired and time consuming. See the earlier blog entry for an idea of how things were done initially.

The comic strip created by Artificial Intelligence responding to actual online dating profiles.Robonkers is the new script generation system for Robonk. Robonkers allows me to edit profiles before they are fed into ELIZA, and then it runs all the conversations in one go. The resulting text is then manually edited for final scripts.

One of the advantages of running at a crude level early on with copy/paste is having a better idea of what the more advanced next system needed to do and how. After months of using the manual method and seeing what would help the comic strip, building the new system was pretty easy.

There’s still a ton of room for improvement for Robonkers, but as it sits, it’s far nicer than the earlier days using copy/paste. It processes 3000 profiles in about 15 seconds. That’s nice.

Jackalope vs. Jacalope

When you’re using artificial intelligence (AI) to write a bunch of a comic strip series, especially crude 1960s-style AI, it’s going to be awkward. That’s to be expected. There was that one time when the human said (in episode #00063):

Robonk panel 00063-02

…and then Robonk replied back with…

Robonk panel 00063-03

That’s going to happen when dealing with 1960s style AI. The humans have different issues.

The human lines in the Robonk comic strip come from online dating profiles. The humans also error, typically with spelling and punctuation. Here’s an example involving a recent strip. In one place, the human has jackalope spelled as “Jacalope” and of course Robonk repeats the error.

Robonk panel 0006E-01

Later on in the same person’s profile, they correctly spell jackalope:

Robonk panel 0006E-03

Upon further review, the term jackalope shouldn’t be capitalized. So, I’m now going back and correcting this edition of Robonk before posting it on the Robonk facebook page. It’s #0006E and can be seen here at Robonk.com. And yes, jackalope, like Robonk, is a portmanteau.

When Artificial Intelligence Writes a Comic Strip

The comic strip series Robonk isn’t written by the creator/editor. Instead, text comes from a 1960s-style artificial intelligence (AI) program responding to online dating profiles. So, about half of it is written (or repeated, anyway) by Chatbot-Eliza-1.06 (modded to state the name as Robonk instead of Liz) and the other half comes from humans looking for sexual encounters.

To date, the script process isn’t too sexy, and I’m doing a lot of copy/paste to get things rolling. At some point, I’ll probably automate out the current rough script process, but I’m not there yet. There’ll be some waste in that process because adding punctuation where the humans failed sometimes makes the difference between a script that works and one that doesn’t. Here’s a screenshot of what the process looks like in June of 2017. This work will most likely result in comics in the #00040-#0005F range.

Lots of copying and pasting to create scripts in June 2017.

[Editor’s note (2019-02-01): Script generation became far more automated after the creation of the Robonkers script generation system in the fall of 2018. The post you are reading explains how things were done early on.]  

If you ever wonder what the text was like in and out of the AI, there is a “source” link with every comic and you can see what the software wrote in response to the human.

Robonk #00042

The script in the earlier screenshot ended up becoming Robonk comic strip #00042.

I keep learning from the earlier strips on what works, what doesn’t, and what can be improved. It’s an odd comic strip in that I don’t write anything, so what I do from a narrative perspective is really, really, really limited.