Forget singing holograms, the future of Japanese synthetic performers is robo-thespians.
A couple of weeks ago we skipped merrily down the uncanny valley with a hospital robot designed to keep patients company. But now it seems that the android in question has grown weary of its humdrum existence of sitting in hospital rooms creeping people out, and has given it all up for a life on stage.
Director Oriza Hirata cast the Geminoid-F, which is controlled by a human actress in a booth behind the stage, in the part of an android caretaker looking after a terminally ill girl whose parents have abandoned her. The droid was custom built for the play with only the servos it needed to perform its part, cutting the usual price tag of $1.2 million dollars by 90%.
Hirata said that robots could actually be better on stage than humans, because you could cherry pick the best techniques and movements from different actors and program them all in. The robot's human co-star, Bryerly Long, wasn't convinced however, saying that she felt like she was alone on stage, and that the robot lacked the human presence that another flesh and blood actor provided.
Despite Long's reservations, Hirata said that the robot did a great job of boosting ticket sales, and that he expected around 600 people to come and watch the play over the course of its two-day run.