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Robot Magic | Research Papers on Magic | #1

Robot Magic | Research Papers on Magic | #1

Hey guys. Biz here. How ya'll doing? This week we have something a bit different than our usual post. My girlfriend has been working on her final essays for this term (she's doing a Masters in Teaching English as a Second Language), which means that she's been reading a lot of academic articles. I'm a curious cat by nature, so I could not help myself not look at the websites she was using to find new material for her papers. As soon as I got access to these website, the sudden thought struck me: There must be academic papers on magic, right?

This thought has send me down a path I have never been before, that of academic research papers on magic, conjuring and sleight of hand. Have any of you read such things? I one sure have not. And since I believe most of you haven't either, I thought I would start a new series where I share with you interesting things I find within these papers.

I think some of you are already clicking away from this. I blame you not. Research papers are definitely not everyone's cup of tea (or beer). But, what I'll do in these blog posts is distill them into something anyone can enjoy by removing all the academic jargon and just giving you the NICE PARTS.

An Initial Discussion of Timing Considerations Raised During Development of a Magician-Robot Interaction by Marco Tempest et al. 2014


Before you get acquainted with the robot, I guess some of you have recognized Marco Tempest's name. Tempest (=a violent, windy storm) is a Swiss magician based in New York City. He is known for his multimedia magic and use of interactive technology and computer graphics in his illusions and presentations.

Marco Tempest was, from my limited knowledge, the first famous digital magic performer. Nowadays you get magicians like Les French Twins performing choreographed magic using big screens and the latest apps, whereas Tempest was at the forefront of testing new technology and creating magic acts around them. There are 3 TED videos on youtube where Tempest performs magic in an augmented-reality setting and others too. You can check them all out here on TED's official website.

Augmented reality = an interactive experience that combines the real world and computer-generated content)

So, it's no wonder that he was the magician chosen to work on creating a robot that could perform magic together with a magician. Remember, folks, that this was back in 2014, way way way before Mario The Magician put up his videos on instagram and marveled the whole world with his cardboard robot performing magic (who, most likely, was performing at that time his amazing magic for kids).


Basically, choreography. They made the robot move in certain ways and do things at certain moments. Then, Tempest matched his movements and 'danced' together.

One view through the comment section on youtube will show you comments such as this one:

"I watched this entire video thinking this was gonna be a demo of an AI. It's literally a scritped prop. It seems like something you'd see at a kids party."

I, for one, don't know what people were expecting back in 2014 (that comment from above is from 2020 hahaha). Of course it's a prop. They didn't think it would be an actual AI powered machine doing magic. Maybe they were watching India Times's news from back then.

The closest thing I found online of AI doing magic is this video where they show VIV guess someone's card. We can all understand how easy that can be accomplished with a bit of programing. Definitely, watching these apps now in 2022, makes us feel like we're watching pre-historic stuff. Still, this was the early days of apps (and it was only 8 years ago! - imagine 8 years from now).

👉 So, tell me gang, what trick do you think would best fit an AI to perform? An ACAAN? Sleight of Hand? Mentalism? Let me know in the comment section below!

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