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Thursday, 12 April, 2001, 17:25 GMT 18:25 UK
AI is alive on the internet
A still from the film AI
A publicity still for AI
By BBC News Online technology correspondent Mark Ward

An intricate and engrossing set of websites is being prepared to give the forthcoming film AI a boost at the box office.

Websites and offline identities have been created for characters and sentient machines in the film, for organisations inhabiting the world where the film is set, and even for some of the fictitious people credited with making the movie.

The websites give fans a hint of the story played out in the film, and some intriguing clues about who does what to whom.

Although director Stanley Kubrick died before he could make the film, the project was taken over by Stephen Spielberg and is due to go on release in summer 2001.

World-Wide-Web campaign

The inspiration for the film comes from the Brian Aldiss science-fiction short story "Super-toys Last All Summer Long", which first appeared in Harper's Bazaar magazine in 1969.

Kubrick held off making the movie until the late 1990s because he said technology had yet to catch up with his vision for the finished film.

Now it looks like Steven Spielberg and his Dreamworks studio are planning to use the modern technology of the net to boost interest in the film.

Around 50 websites have been created as part of the "back story" for the film to give fans an intriguing glimpse of the world portrayed in the film and the plot played out within it.

News of the websites first broke on the Ain't It Cool News website and was sparked by eagle-eyed film fans spotting the name Jeanine Salla credited as a "sentient machine therapist" in one of the trailers available on the net.

Searching for this name on the net led fans to the fictitious Bangalore World University and on through a bewildering series of sites that detail the world of AI.

There are sites for the other members of the Salla family, characters in the film, organisations such as the Sentient Property Crime Bureau, which seeks robots which have broken the law, anti-robot militias and even sites maintained by sentient machines themselves.

Working the web

Calling the phone numbers listed on the sites gives fans more details about the characters and the plot of the film, which revolves around the attempts of a robot boy to come to terms with his lack of humanity.

A still from the trailer for AI
Who is Jeanine Salla?
Many of the websites are registered to people with names that sound suspicious.

Bianca Ghaepetto is registered as the contact for www.inourimage.org but has a phone number that does not work. Gepetto was of course the name of the carpenter who created Pinocchio.

The official website for the film has a chatbot on it that people can converse with, but, so far, has no links to the other sites created to support the movie.

No release date has been decided for the film but it is expected to go on release in July.

Haley Joel Osment plays the central character of the robot boy in the film, which also stars Jude Law and William Hurt.

It is not the first time that smart promotion has gathered interest for a Kubrick film.

The provocative marketing campaign for Kubrick's final film Eyes Wide Shut was devised by the man himself and generated interest by holding back information about the film.

This time, the reverse seems to be the case and fans are getting a chance to explore the world of the film long before they see the movie.

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See also:

13 Jul 99 | Tom Brook
Kubrick's tantalising legacy
28 Jun 00 | Entertainment
Spielberg targets web talent
17 Mar 00 | UK
The droogs don't work
26 Mar 01 | New Media
Majestic takes control
15 Mar 00 | Entertainment
Spielberg to wrap Kubrick project
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