Welcome to the WHIM research project pages. This is a three year European initiative involving teams at five sites, which started in October 2013. We are funded as a STREP (short-term research project) by the FP7 programme of the European Commission, specifically to address objective ICT-2013.8.1: Technologies and scientific foundations in the field of creativity.

Our project acronym stands for the What-If Machine, and that is our aim: to build a software system able to invent, evaluate and present fictional ideas with real cultural value for artefacts such as stories, jokes, films, paintings and advertisements.

Project Overview

In Computational Creativity research, we study how to engineer software which can take on some of the creative responsibility in arts and science projects. There has been much progress towards the creative generation of artefacts of cultural value such as poems, music and paintings. Often, when produced by people, such artefacts embed a fictional idea invented by the creator. For instance, an artist might have the fictional idea: [What if there was a quiz show, where each week someone was shot dead?] and express this through a painting, poem or film. While such ideation is clearly central to creativity, with obvious applications to the creative industries, there have only been a few small, ad-hoc studies of how to automate fictional ideation. The time is therefore ripe to see whether we can derive, implement and test novel formalisms and processes which enable software to not only invent, but assess, explore and present such ideas.

We propose to investigate the following model for creative idea generation: (a) collect and analyse some information about a domain, to form a shallow world view of that domain (b) form a set of what-if style ideas from the analysis using notions of surprise, semantic tension and incongruity (c) assess, rank and select ideas based on the quality and quantity of narratives that can be generated using each idea, and (d) use the world view, idea and narratives in linguistic renderings, taking into account notions of relevancy, expansion, obfuscation and affect. Given that ideas are for human consumption, we will also collect crowd-sourced data about how people value, appreciate and expand these ideas, and will machine learn predictors for how people will react to automatically generated ideas. We expect this project to not only bring into being a new era of idea-centric approaches to Computational Creativity, but also to highlight to creative industry practitioners the huge potential of creative software collaborators.

Our main aims and research hypotheses are summarised in this diagram:

For more information about the motivations, aims and approach in the WHIM project, please see an extract from the proposal that we submitted in order to gain funding for this project. Simon Colton is the co-ordinator of the WHIM project. He leads the Computational Creativity Research Group in the Department of Computing at Goldsmiths College, University of London.


Universidade Complutense de Madrid University of Cambridge Institute Jožef Stefan Goldsmiths College, University of
   London University College, Dublin
Goldsmiths College, University of London:
Simon Colton :: Jeremy Gow ::
Teresa Llano :: Rose Hepworth :: Catherine Bellamy

University of Cambridge:
Stephen Clark :: Mark Granroth-Wilding

University College, Dublin:
Tony Veale:: Alessandro Valitutti

Institute Jožef Stefan, Ljubljana
Nada Lavrač :: Martin Žnidaršič

Universidade Complutense de Madrid:
Pablo Gervás :: Carlos León










The work of Teresa Llano and Tony Veale on the WHIM project covered in a New Scientist article about automatic story generation, October 2014. There is an online follow up article: here.

Brief mention of the WHIM project in an article about Computational Creativity. The Painting Fool and Simon Colton in PC Pro magazine, October 2014.

The WHIM project work of Teresa Llano and Tony Veale covered in a Guardian article about automatic story generation, November 2014. Online version here.

The WHIM project work of Simon Colton and Teresa Llano covered in a BBC Culture article about automatic story generation, January 2015. Online version available only outside UK here.

Computational creativity and the WHIM project covered in a WIRED article about the use of machines in the creative process, January 2015. Online version available here.

The WHIM project is mentioned in a Huffington Post article about the possibility of robots writing fiction, August 2015. Online version available here.

The European Commission has funded the WHIM Project and here they have written an article asking the question can computers be creative? Online version here.

The What-If Machine is explored in this article about the rise of the robot journalism. Online version here.

The What-If Machine and its potential is explored in this article written by Lucy Ingham, July 2015. Online version Read here.

Richard Moss of Gizmag writes about creative AI and explores software and the broader challenges of computational creativity. He has interviewed Simon Colton and Michael Cook about the subject. Read here.

Richard Moss of Gizmag writes about computers as storytellers and uses the What-If Machine as an example. Read here.

Further reading around "robot journalism' and the What-If Machine in the Slow Journalism Magazine". Read here.

Follow up article to Lucy Ingham article above. Read here.

Technovelgy writer Bill Christensen covers the What-If Machine. Read here.

Compute Scotland Magazine, July 2015, covers the WHIM Project. Read here.

Article written on computational creativity systems that generate storytelling, including about the What-If Machine. December 2015.Visit here.

French article about WHIM and the What-If Machine, July 2015. Visit here.

Article for the Guardian asking scientists and artists on the role of computer systems in creativity., October 2015. Visit here.

Interview for the Science Node on the work of the What-If Machine. Read here.

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