Geminoid F is working as an actress, taking the stage in a play that opened yesterday in a Tokyo theater.
In the 20-minute play, titled "Sayonara" ("good bye" in Japanese), the android shares the stage with another actress (of the human kind) named Bryerly Long. Long plays the role of a young woman who is suffering from a fatal illness and whose parents bring her an android to serve as a companion.
A human operator controls the robot from a soundproof chamber behind the stage. A microphone captures the operator's voice and cameras track head and face movements. When the operator speaks or moves, the android follows suit.
The robot is in a permanent sitting posture, so movements are limited to the head, torso, and arms. The performance is "a bit mechanical," as Reuters puts it, but that doesn't seem to be a problem: the android is playing the role of an android after all.
Geminoid F is a creation of Hiroshi Ishiguro, a professor at Osaka University and researcher at ATR Intelligent Robotics and Communication Laboratories.
The "Android-Human Theater" project is a collaboration between Ishiguro and Japanese director Oriza Hirata, who writes and directs.
According to Ishiguro, the play explores the question, "What do life and death mean to humans and robots?," and it will "alter the audience's images of robots and humans, and present a compelling fusion of theater arts and science."
Would you go watch the play?
Video and photos: ITN
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Erico Guizzo is a senior editor at IEEE Spectrum. He has written stories on a wide range of science and technology topics, including Japanese androids, French computer codes, Icelandic video games, American crash-test dummies, and Canadian bacteria. His main area of interest is robotics, and he has written and edited hundreds of articles and videos featuring the latest advances in this field. He is also the cocreator of Spectrum’s critically acclaimed Robots for iPad app. For his robotics coverage, Guizzo has won four Neal Awards and has been a finalist for two National Magazine Awards. An IEEE member, he holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of São Paulo, in his native Brazil, and a master’s in science writing from MIT.