The word "robot" comes from a Czech play written in the 1920s, so it's strangely fitting that recently human-like robots became performers at productions recently staged in the Japan Society in Manhattan. NY1's Technology reporter Adam Balkin filed the following report.
There nothing strange about two women performing side by side in a play, but is unusual when one of those actresses is an android robot. Researchers at Osaka University in Japan created the womanly robot as part of the university's Robot Theater Project which is working with the Seinendan Theater Company in touring two one-act plays around the United States.
These two plays, "Sayonara" and "I, Worker," which recently played at the Japan Society in Manhattan, have a handful of actors that are robots.
"It's not about robots trying to replace the human actors. Rather, robots play as a robot role," says Yoko Shioya of the Japan Society. "So it's about the encounters of robots in the near future where they serve in every human's living space and how they interact with human beings."
The themes of the plays are designed to help audience members appreciate that one day people may come to feel an emotional attachment to robots in our homes, and may even love them, even though it is highly unlikely, if not impossible for robots to reciprocate.
The feminine robot in "Sayonara" certainly looks human, but can it act like a human in a theatrical production?
Bryerly Long, an actor in "Sayonara," says, "In the original version, I was acting with a Japanese actress who was backstage controlling the robot. So I felt like I was acting with her through the robot, so working with another actress. In the case of the English version of the play, it's actually my own voice recorded for the voice of the robot, so it's kind of like acting with myself, but timing it with another character on stage."
"Sayonara" and "I, Worker" are touring the northeast through the beginning of March. To find out where or to learn more about the project, visit www.JapanSociety.org.