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Typecasting with Technology

by Christa Fletcher

Many actors do not like to be typecast in specific roles, but what if every robot character in films, TV and on stage was played by an actual robot? In Japan, a life-like android has taken the stage and her name is Geminoid F. And, we’re pretty sure she doesn’t mind being typecast as an android in the play Sayonara, since she is one anyway.

On stage Geminoid F sits in a chair, reciting her lines with limited movements controlled by a human backstage in a soundproof room. For now she is not automated or programmed, making her a life-size puppet complete with mechanical facial expressions and somewhat stiff gestures. She is able to move her head, arms and torso to interact with a human actor in the play. Bryerly Long, who shared the stage with the fembot, told the BBC that Geminoid F lacks “human presence”, making her feel “alone” on stage.

Sayonara is 20 minutes long. The play is part of the “Android-Human Theater” project that was created by the inventor of the robot, Hiroshi Ishiguro,
a professor
at Osaka University
and researcher at ATR Intelligent Robotics and Communication
Laboratories
, and Japanese director Oriza Hirata. For some the robot’s stage presence brings fear that actors may be competing with android counterparts, while others think the technology will simply add to the believability of beloved robo-roles.

What do you think — are robot actors stage-worthy?

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