It seems like everywhere you look these days, somebody somewhere has made an artistic robot. From painting portraits to playing music, robots seem to be making artistic strides that threaten to overshadow their human contemporaries. Unless your last name is Schwarzenegger, acting like a robot probably isn’t going to get you very far in Hollywood. But what if you are a robot?
Robot actors may seem like an outlandish idea at first, but it’s only fitting given the word “robot” was invented by playwright Karl Capek for his 1920s play, “Rossum’s Universal Robots”. Could Capek himself have imagined that less than 100 years after his seminal work, real-live robots would take to the stage next to human thespians to perform for live audiences?
In November 2008, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ household robot Wakamaru performed in a 20 minute play at Osaka University. Two Wakamarus were programmed to perform specific gestures and speak their lines for the story, which focuses on a family’s housecleaning robot which has lost its motivation to work. The play, written by Oriza Hirata, garnered all sorts of media attention for its unprecedented human-robot artistic collaboration.
This past April, two of KITECH’s robots followed in Wakamaru’s trailblazing path at South Korea’s National Theater. The experimental play made headlines for its mixture of science and the arts, and was the first of its kind in South Korea. SeRoPi, a robot designed for simple guidance and service tasks, along with the female android Eve R-1 provided comic relief in the play alongside their frustrated human teacher. A video of their performance follows.
Not to be outdone by these Eastern efforts, a Swiss production titled simply “Robots” ran from May 1st ~ 17th 2009 and featured some autonomous robots developed by Bluebotics. The story is about a nerd who lives in isolation with his robotic companions and what happens when he brings a date home.
Are any of these plays any good, or are they simply hitting the iron while it’s hot in an attempt to grab headlines? One thing we can be sure of: regardless of how these examples turned out, there is bound to be more of them – many more – in the years ahead.