Japan robot actress takes the stage, stiffly

Thu Nov 18, 2010 8:54am EST
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Hyun Oh

TOKYO (Reuters Life!) - The brown-haired, brown-eyed woman made her Tokyo stage debut in a tearjerker about a girl suffering a fatal illness. Her voice was calm, but her performance a bit mechanical.

It wasn't just first-night nerves. She was an android. Her name was Geminoid F.

"Sayonara," or "Good-bye," staged by Japanese director Oriza Hirata at a Tokyo art festival on Wednesday, marked an unusual collaboration between an android -- a robot designed to look and act like a human -- and a human actress, American Bryerly Long.

"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 had already put on two plays featuring ordinary, non-android robots.

Long plays a girl suffering from a fatal illness whose parents hire an android carer and then abandon her. 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, dressed in a dark, scoop-necked shirt and dark pants.

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 whose head and body movements were detected by a camera and replicated by the android. Microphones were used for her voice.   Continued...