Friday, November 12, 2010

Robot on stage: the end of the line for actors?

A life like robot has taken to the stage in Japan, the BBC reports. The android actress' name is Geminoid F. Not a name that portrays well on a theatre poster I guess. The robot plays the part of an android caretaker to a woman who is terminally ill. Geminoid F recites poetry in the play and she never leaves her chair. Her movement and speech are directed by an actress back stage. So no autonomy yet.

So why is this news? Although this may be a first in the hallowed halls of theatre, robots controlled by humans have been part of the film making industry for donkey's years. This particular robot does look quite human but only at a glance. The resemblance fades away as soon as the robot moves any of its parts. It looks wooden and lacks a lot of je ne sais quoi. If anything it shows up the intricacies of the human face. A smile is more than just the curling upwards of the lips. The whole face, the eyes smile as well. This trick the robot has not mastered.

So Geminoid F does not pose a threat to human actors yet. And I am guessing the price for such a robot is not going to make it an economical extra or stunt person either. Although you never know in Hollywood. Imagine: instead of launching clothes filled with sandbags from the core of one of its many explosions the next Michael Bay movie may launch animated robots. A bit of a waste of money in my view, but most Michael Bay movies are that anyway so no great change there.

(A bit more on this story here: SkyNews.)

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