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Meet Shelley. She's an AI robot who creates bone-chilling horror stories.

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Shelley isn't your average person.

Actually, she's not a human at all. She's a robot who uses artificial intelligence to write and share hair-raising horror stories. Named after famed "Frankenstein" writer Mary Shelley, the bot is the brainchild of MIT postdoctoral candidate Pinar Yanardag and research scientist Manuel Cebrian. They claim that Shelley is the world's first collaborative AI horror writer.

"The idea of launching Shelley was doing follow up work of what we did last year -- the Nightmare Machine project -- where we created scary images using AI. And, this year, we wanted to do a text version where we create horror stories using AI."
Pinar Yanardag, Shelley co-creator and MIT postdoctoral associate

On Oct. 27, Shelley came to life. But, before she did, co-creators Pinar Yanardag and Manuel Cebrian spent a lot of time figuring out where to obtain enough data to power Shelley. The more data they fed into the machine, they explained, the more it would "learn" and mimic. That's why they eventually decided to pull data from the popular Reddit forum "No Sleep." Throughout the past 10 years, users have been sharing and collaborating on their own horror stories. As a result, Yanardag and Cebrian were able to feed Shelley nearly 700 mb worth of data. That's equivalent to the data used in a feature-length film.

After combing through the data, Shelley was able to pick up on certain patterns used in the Reddit stories, which helped her develop her own way of processing information. For instance, those algorithms helped her develop a sense of linguistic intelligence -- allowing her to determine the next likely character.

Horror Fiction Bot
In this Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2017 photo creators of a fiction-writing 'chatbot,' from the left, Massachusetts Institute of Technology postdoctoral associate Pinar Yanardag, of Istanbul, Turkey, MIT research scientist Manuel Cebrian, of Madrid, Spain, and MIT associate professor Iyad Rahwan, of Aleppo, Syria, sit for a photograph in front of a graphic from the home page of the site called "Shelley." Named after "Frankenstein" author Mary Shelley, the chatbot has been trained on more than 140,000 horror stories written by amateur writers on a popular online forum. Now Shelley is generating its own stories on Twitter, taking turns with humans in an experiment to find out if artificial intelligence is smart enough to make someone feel scared. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

"So you can basically think [of it] as a computer program that is able to process the data that we feed to it," Yanardag said. "And then it starts from a random character and it creates where the character would go next and next."

Upon first reading Shelley's dark and twisted stories, some may find the robot's coherent verbiage surprising. Her stories, which are gathered online, read as if any other human created them. Yanardag explained that's the result of the amount of data used to train Shelley.

Shelley, like many humans, spends most of her time on social media -- on Twitter, in particular. Her co-creators designed her so that she would be able to tweet and collaborate on sick-twisted tales with real humans. About every hour, Shelley tweets the beginning of a story, and will invite others to finish the story by using the hashtag #YourTurn.

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Roughly one week after her introduction, Shelley had generated nearly 1,300 tweets and attracted 6,000 followers. Her co-creators handpicked some of their favorite stories and shared them on Instagram.

<blockquote class="instagram-media" data-instgrm-captioned data-instgrm-version="7" style=" background:#FFF; border:0; border-radius:3px; box-shadow:0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width:658px; padding:0; width:99.375%; width:-webkit-calc(100% - 2px); width:calc(100% - 2px);"><div style="padding:8px;"> <div style=" background:#F8F8F8; line-height:0; margin-top:40px; padding:50% 0; text-align:center; width:100%;"> <div style=" background:url(data:image/png;base64,iVBORw0KGgoAAAANSUhEUgAAACwAAAAsCAMAAAApWqozAAAABGdBTUEAALGPC/xhBQAAAAFzUkdCAK7OHOkAAAAMUExURczMzPf399fX1+bm5mzY9AMAAADiSURBVDjLvZXbEsMgCES5/P8/t9FuRVCRmU73JWlzosgSIIZURCjo/ad+EQJJB4Hv8BFt+IDpQoCx1wjOSBFhh2XssxEIYn3ulI/6MNReE07UIWJEv8UEOWDS88LY97kqyTliJKKtuYBbruAyVh5wOHiXmpi5we58Ek028czwyuQdLKPG1Bkb4NnM+VeAnfHqn1k4+GPT6uGQcvu2h2OVuIf/gWUFyy8OWEpdyZSa3aVCqpVoVvzZZ2VTnn2wU8qzVjDDetO90GSy9mVLqtgYSy231MxrY6I2gGqjrTY0L8fxCxfCBbhWrsYYAAAAAElFTkSuQmCC); display:block; height:44px; margin:0 auto -44px; position:relative; top:-22px; width:44px;"></div></div> <p style=" margin:8px 0 0 0; padding:0 4px;"> <a href="https://www.instagram.com/p/Ba0Ga87BagS/" style=" color:#000; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; font-style:normal; font-weight:normal; line-height:17px; text-decoration:none; word-wrap:break-word;" target="_blank">the start to a story written by @shelley_ai. swipe to see how she collaborated to finish it #yourturn . . . . . . #horror #ai #artificialintelligence #writing #halloween #shelley #shelleyai #mit #medialab #collaborate #nosleep #spooky #scary</a></p> <p style=" color:#c9c8cd; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px; margin-bottom:0; margin-top:8px; overflow:hidden; padding:8px 0 7px; text-align:center; text-overflow:ellipsis; white-space:nowrap;">A post shared by Shelley (@shelley_ai) on <time style=" font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px;" datetime="2017-10-29T01:49:07+00:00">Oct 28, 2017 at 6:49pm PDT</time></p></div></blockquote> <script async defer src="//platform.instagram.com/en_US/embeds.js"></script>

<blockquote class="instagram-media" data-instgrm-captioned data-instgrm-version="7" style=" background:#FFF; border:0; border-radius:3px; box-shadow:0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width:658px; padding:0; width:99.375%; width:-webkit-calc(100% - 2px); width:calc(100% - 2px);"><div style="padding:8px;"> <div style=" background:#F8F8F8; line-height:0; margin-top:40px; padding:50.0% 0; text-align:center; width:100%;"> <div style=" background:url(data:image/png;base64,iVBORw0KGgoAAAANSUhEUgAAACwAAAAsCAMAAAApWqozAAAABGdBTUEAALGPC/xhBQAAAAFzUkdCAK7OHOkAAAAMUExURczMzPf399fX1+bm5mzY9AMAAADiSURBVDjLvZXbEsMgCES5/P8/t9FuRVCRmU73JWlzosgSIIZURCjo/ad+EQJJB4Hv8BFt+IDpQoCx1wjOSBFhh2XssxEIYn3ulI/6MNReE07UIWJEv8UEOWDS88LY97kqyTliJKKtuYBbruAyVh5wOHiXmpi5we58Ek028czwyuQdLKPG1Bkb4NnM+VeAnfHqn1k4+GPT6uGQcvu2h2OVuIf/gWUFyy8OWEpdyZSa3aVCqpVoVvzZZ2VTnn2wU8qzVjDDetO90GSy9mVLqtgYSy231MxrY6I2gGqjrTY0L8fxCxfCBbhWrsYYAAAAAElFTkSuQmCC); display:block; height:44px; margin:0 auto -44px; position:relative; top:-22px; width:44px;"></div></div> <p style=" margin:8px 0 0 0; padding:0 4px;"> <a href="https://www.instagram.com/p/Bau5-HEBhtp/" style=" color:#000; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; font-style:normal; font-weight:normal; line-height:17px; text-decoration:none; word-wrap:break-word;" target="_blank">the beginnings of a story by @shelley_ai. Now it&#39;s #yourturn . . . . . . #horror #ai #artificialintelligence #writing #halloween #shelley #shelleyai #mit #medialab #collaborate #nosleep #spooky #scary #thump</a></p> <p style=" color:#c9c8cd; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px; margin-bottom:0; margin-top:8px; overflow:hidden; padding:8px 0 7px; text-align:center; text-overflow:ellipsis; white-space:nowrap;">A post shared by Shelley (@shelley_ai) on <time style=" font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px;" datetime="2017-10-27T01:24:07+00:00">Oct 26, 2017 at 6:24pm PDT</time></p></div></blockquote> <script async defer src="//platform.instagram.com/en_US/embeds.js"></script>

Shelley's seemingly infinite creativity offers her co-creators a unique opportunity to further analyze and develop artificial intelligence.

For them, the story has just begun.

"We need to actually analyze the data clinically. We really need to understand how Shelley works, because even though we created her, we don't really understand how's she able to produce this so we need to do psychological investigations. We must work on understanding how she works, and how she works with people [in the] next [few] months."
Manuel Cebrian

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