Humanoid robot takes centrestage as a theatre actor

The robot actor is a product of a special project by Pipeline Theatre in collaboration with robotics company Engineered Arts.

robot actor
Pipeline Theatre

Cornwall-based Pipeline Theatre is doing the rounds of England's theatre scene with motley of actors comprising a humanoid robot or "Robothespian" among its cast. "Spillikin" – the play marks acting chops of a humanoid robot, which has been created for this particular project by the theatre company in collaboration with robotics company, Engineered Arts. As touted by those involved, it's been "a deeply touching exploration of love."

The story of the play follows a high drama that merges love and technology together when a robot maker builds a robot to make sure that his wife is not left alone after he is dead. As the play progresses, the leading lady even kisses the robot, who in turn is fully living up to its potential with hand gestures and facial expressions.

In a conversation with Reuters, the director of the play Jon Welch said, "We have pre-programmed every single thing the robot says and every single thing the robot does, all the moves." The humanoid during the course of the play maintains a direct connection to a laptop cued at the theater's control room from where it gets his cues to deliver a stellar performance. Things, always do have a chance of getting messy and this production in not without its theatrical challenges. "(There is) a big pressure on the always have the right lines, always stand in the right place so that the robot is looking at the right direction at that particular moment," Welch remarked in his conversation.

So how is it having a robot co-actor slogging around, in case the tech nerds across the world want to see or even act in such a production? The leading lady is full of praise for her humanoid colleague, "Working with a robot is something of course I have never done before so it's a completely different experience," Judy Norman said. "When he looks at me, this going to sound weird, but he is very affectionate and I like him, I really like him."