New PBS Kids Show Will Include Generative AI Conversational Interactions
PBS Kids will premiere a new show called “Lyla in the Loop” next year with interactive episodes where the main character, Lyla, will converse with the viewer thanks to generative AI. This digital content will have Lyla directly ask viewers questions and react to how the viewer replies in a test that could lead to more shows incorporating responsive AI opportunities.
Generative AI TV
“Lyla in the Loop” centers on 7-year-old Lyla, who uses creative problem-solving and critical thinking to tackle challenges. PBS says the AI elements will allow an unprecedented level of personalized interaction for viewers. PBS is designing the show’s interactive episodes to provide examples of AI capabilities for young audiences and “support play and experimentation with computational thinking skills.”
The AI will be designed to understand context and give relevant responses tailored to children’s natural speech patterns. PBS has tested AI-fueled experiences before, specifically with games, but this is the first time a show has tried them out. The network works with AI researchers at the University of California-Irvine and the University of Michigan but hasn’t said yet what the technical elements of the AI will be in terms of large language models. The conversations with Lyla will undergo research to assess children’s learning and engagement from the AI interactivity.
“Kids are natural creative problem-solvers, experimenting and investigating the world around them with joyful curiosity,” series creator and showrunner Dave Peth said. “Lyla in the Loop celebrates and encourages kids and the grownups in their lives to recognize those innate abilities and see them as a powerful tool to help others, express themselves, and solve all kinds of problems in everyday life.”
Beyond the direct AI interactions, the show offers kids an example of dealing with AI through Lyla’s sidekick, a cat named Stu, “who always does exactly, literally, what was asked.” One episode will even evoke the ongoing debate over the ethical use of synthetic media when Lyla helps her sister figure out how much Stu can help with an art project, which is a way of “showcasing an age-appropriate example of current questions surrounding the use of real-world AI tools,” according to PBS. That’s pretty close to a recent debate over artwork for the Marvel TV show “Secret Invasion.” It’s also reminiscent of how “South Park” explored the way ChatGPT can be used in real life and for making TV shows.
“Lyla is curious and resourceful, and when it comes to figuring out solutions to everyday problems, she doesn’t give up, even when it takes several tries to get it right,” PBS Kids senior vice president and general manager Sara DeWitt said. “We know audiences will quickly be drawn to Lyla’s determination and can-do-attitude, and we’re excited to introduce this warm, funny, and smart series to our viewers.”