Sentient Sky

August 2018

Tengchao Zhou was the sole author of this work

I

Sentient Sky provides players an innovative way to explore a lexicon database in a 3D virtual environment. It enables players to "chat" with a computer in a limited but meaningful manner.

For example, if you are confused about love, you can ask the computer "please define love" by clicking the word love, and the computer will “speak” to you about what love is through text-to-speech.

Click on the word emotion, which was used to define love. Essentially you just asked the computer to define emotion. The computer will “explain” to you about its definition. In this back and forth manner, you are “talking” with a computer.

See it live! Here are five words to start with: love | calling | purpose | cause | motivation. Or you can start with a random word.

II

NOTE! If you use Google Chrome, you can talk to the computer with your voice as Google Chrome supports the Web Speech API. However, if you use other browsers, you can still interact with the program through clicking.

Below is a video documenting my "conversation" with the sentient sky.

III

You can also experience Sentient Sky on your phone while lying on your back. It's designed to be experienced this way. It's supposed to be something that you want to explore a bit when you are very tired or dispirited.

Experience it on your phone while lying on your back! Here are five words to start with: love | calling | purpose | cause | motivation. Or you can start with a random word.

IV

Sentient Sky was a project born out of instantAha, the dictionary project, which is also included in this portfolio.

I was wondering if I could build a game that I can play when I feel lonely. It needs to respond to me emotionally. As weird as it might sound, reading makes you feel less lonely. Reading definitions of love actually makes you feel better! I discovered this when I was playing with a feature I accidently built when I was building instantAha - a visual way to explore a lexicon database.

I extracted this feature from instantAha and decorated it in a 3D virtual environment. I added synthesized voice to its output and enabled players to use their voices to talk to the program, so now it feels as if you are really chatting with an intelligent/sentient computer program. Even better, I made it easy to play while you are lying on your back, so it’s very relaxing and comforting now.