AI106: Long Live the New Flesh

I’ve been hinting a bit about Oblivion University, and part of being coy was that it wasn’t entirely clear what form it would take. I knew after Michael Branson Smith‘s (MBS Productions) brilliant example of training AI Levine for his Reclaim open presentation that I wanted to be part of a ds106 course focused on AI, but what that looked like was vague at best this past summer. In early Fall the idea was still rattling around in my head, so the inimitable Paul Bond and I convinced UMW to host at least one section of the AI-focused ds106 course, now known as AI106, and today I try and finally seal Georgetown on a second section with the ever-amazing Martha Burtis. The talented Ryan Seslow is running a section at York College, so by January or February we may have a few courses running parallel explorations of Artificial Intelligence and digital storytelling. But all that is just prelude the emergence of Dr. Brian Oblivion in his new AI flesh, truly a university of one who will be championing truth in the aftermath with 24/7 office hours, a veritable 7-11 of next generation Education. You don’t believe me? Well behold the new flesh!

Screenshot of Oblivion University

Click on the image to be taken to Oblivion Univeristy and ask the good Dr. a question, and then wait a few seconds for the audio response

Intrigued? Well then click on the above image and ask Dr. Brian Oblivion a question, and give him a few seconds to process the audio response, which will pop up once it is done. The video piece is a work in progress over the coming semester because we always build the plane while it is auto-piloting 🙂

Did you go? If not, why not? If so, insane, right!? I’m not sure exactly what to think, but all the praise and glory goes to MBS productions, who has taken the work he demoed at Reclaim Open in June and converted it into a voice-driven chatbot trained on numerous hours of the 2011 ds106 videos featuring the web-flesh version of Dr. Oblivion.

How did he do this, well I asked Dr. Oblivion just that question, and here are the two, fairly similar responses I got:

First answer to “How did Michael Branson Smith create you?”

Second answer to “How did Michael Branson Smith create you?” with the ever important (and recurring) caveat…

The answers are intentionally basic given the program is assuming an audience at a 4th grade level. This helps simplify some of the responses and cut down a bit on length given the potential waste and cost of long, drawn out 12th grade responses 🙂 I will not/cannot steal Michael Branson Smith’s thunder given he has done ALL the work here and I’ve just a vague idea of how he did it, but the 30,000 foot view is he used the generative voice AI tool from to replicate the nuance and voice of Dr. Oblivion by training it on hours of the original ds106 Summer of Oblivion videos lectures. Once refined, that voice is used to read back that answers received from ChatGPT 3.5 (or such) making for the near immediate and quite elaborate responses. He used python code and the ChatGPT API to control snark level, grade level, and other settings that allowed him to fine-tune the answers, and those adjustments can be quite entertaining.

The final piece MBS is working on is using a video syncing tool such as Synclabs that can train a video on the good Doctor’s wisdom to include lip syncing (see the above video for multi-lingual AI lip-syncing of character voices). This will require a bit of playing with wav2lip code (anyone reading out there have any interest) as well as some GPU power to make the video response sync instantanously with the audio. But that is the Holy Grail, he already has the chatGPT text trained through elevenlabs, and once we have the jump to lip-synced video of Dr. Oblivion the new flesh will have arrived and ds106 as we know it will never be the same!

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6 Responses to AI106: Long Live the New Flesh

  1. Alan Levine says:

    Holy bleep, this is just what we need now! I am regretful I missed the call but I will be first in line to register with the open cohort.

    I just had Dr O respond to “A sonnet of love for writing HTML by hand, mention all the tags” Was he ever snarky and on target with a response, shared here

    I ran the audio through MacWhisper to generate a transcript.

    Bring on the apocalypse!

    • Reverend says:


      If you look in the console, i think you can get a transcript 😉

      I do have to say all the praise and glory goes to MBS, and the AI Levine was the impetus for all of this, so in many ways you are to blame for this madness!!

  2. Eric Likness says:

    Here was my prompt:

    Prof. Brian O’Blivion I presume?

    And I did 6 quick submits one after another, and each one 1-5 got more personable and friendly sounding. And it went from saying Prof. as the word P-R-O-F by prompt #5 it finally subbed in the word “Professor”,… on number 6 it want back to saying the word P-R-O-F again. Each one, each response just unique enough to give that uncanny feeling of it being a person. MBS, mmmm-whaah!

  3. MBS says:

    Interface updates are in. It’s been quite a ride so far.

    • Reverend says:

      I love the notes cards and the searching for the cassette tape, it’s almost that much more appropriate an interface, and takes pressure off worrying about lipsync piece until its good and ready, you are a genius. I hope everyone knows that you are the mad scientist behind this whole thing, smock and all. Long live the artists, they will show us the light!

  4. Grant says:

    Better on AI than on the streets!

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