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Can Computers Do Magic?

A magic trick.

Researchers at Queen Mary University of London say magicians may use computers to create new magic effects.

Credit: Queen Mary, University of London

Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) researchers have found magicians could use computers to create new magic effects and find new ideas for their performances.

They examined modeling particular human perceptual quirks and processes, and building computer systems that can search and find designs for new tricks based on these potential audience responses.

"Where computer science and artificial intelligence can help is in conjuring new tricks, which the magician could then perform," says QMUL professor Peter McOwan.

The researchers note the Internet and social media platforms provide rich sets of ready-made psychological data about how many people use language in day-to-day life, which could be exploited by computational systems that combine and search large datasets to automatically generate new tricks by analyzing the often ambiguous mental associations people have with particular words in certain contexts. For example, using clusters of words and their associated meanings could enable a magician to predict how a spectator might make connections between seemingly incongruous words in the right context and predict what they might say in a particular situation.

"Magicians and trick designers...already use machines as development aids, however we point out that computers also have the potential to be creative aids, generating some aspects of the creative output themselves--though currently in a highly supervised way," says QMUL researcher Howard Williams.

From Queen Mary, University of London
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