Robot makes debut performance on stage

November 16th, 2010 - 5:50 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Nov 16 (IANS) Her performance on stage might have been a bit stiff but with good reason too — she happens to be a robot.

Humanoid robot Geminoid F. acted alongside her human likeness American actress Bryerly Long — for the first time in a play called ‘Sayonara’ or ‘Goodbye’ in Tokyo last week.

Geminoid F, a robot designed to look and act like a human, acted in the play directed by Japanese Oriza Hirata.

“It won’t be that a robot replaces human beings on a drama stage, it’s more as if a new type of actor has emerged in the theatrical world,” said Hirata, who has already put on two plays featuring ordinary, non-android robots.

Long plays a girl suffering from a fatal illness. Her parents hire an android carer and abandon her, reports the Daily Mail.

The android, made to resemble a part-Russian, part-Japanese woman with long hair parted in the middle, recites poetry to her.

Seated on a chair throughout the performance, the human-sized Geminoid F carried out conversations and monologues. She was dressed in a dark, scoop-necked shirt and dark trousers.

Her eyes blinked and her chest rose and fell as if she was breathing even as she spoke, smiled and looked surprised, though her faced lacked the depth of expression of a real person.

Her voice and gestures were created by an actress in a soundproof chamber behind the stage. Her head and body movements were detected by a camera and replicated by the android. Microphones were used for her voice.

Geminoid F was produced by Hiroshi Ishiguro, a renowned robot designer at Osaka University in western Japan. Ishiguro’s usual androids come with a steep $1.2 million price tag.

For the play, he modified one to give it only the bare essentials needed to preform the given role, which cut costs to one-tenth of the usual. All the android’s movements were carried out with only 12 motors.

Despite the raves, Geminoid F’s human counterpart said she felt as if she was performing solo.

“There’s a bit of distance. The robot has a quite particular position because it’s got a voice, but it’s not some kind of human presence,” Long said.

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