Meet RoboThespian: Are Robots Taking Over the World?

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We’ve seen robots on trade show floors many times over the past few years, but we haven’t seen one quite like the RoboThespian until now. During ceBIT last weekend, I was able to catch up with some representatives from the company behind the machine – Engineered Arts Limited.

RoboThespian is a human-sized interactive actor. This little machine cannot vacuum your carpets or start your car when it’s cold out. It was created in order to educate, communicate, interact and entertain people. The number one goal here is entertainment – making the audience feel a part of the experience.

The robot was designed as a flexible communication medium. They were first introduced in January, 2005 as actors in the ‘Mechanical Theatre’ production at the Eden Project in Cornwall. The audience reacted to these little dancing devices so well that the company knew they were on to something. They began working to bring more features into the mix by adding a web-based interface to control the robot. This allows you to record and upload your own sound and video files to be used with the little guy.

The RoboThespian comes with standard content including greetings and impressions. You can then tailor him to suit your needs by uploading additional content and movements. The team will also work with you to create and program a robot that fills a perfect spot in your company or home. His three main roles are to meet and greet visitors, interact with the public, and perform.

In the video, you’ll see RoboThespian mimicking one of the staff members by way of a Kinect. I gotta admit that it was pretty cool to see the cool cat reciting Hamlet! He did a better job than some of the actors I’ve seen on the big stage.

Math doesn’t seem to be his strong suit, but it was entertaining watching him try to calculate two plus two. He did a much better job at singing… his rendition of “Singing in the Rain” could hit the Billboard Top 40 in no time!

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I seriously want one of these. That’s totally not happening, I’m sure. He probably costs about a bajillion dollars! It does beg an interesting question, though: Are robots going to take over the world? The Engineered Arts team asks this same inquiry:

Is RoboThespian a glimpse of a forthcoming technological utopia, or a dire warning of what may come to be. It is trivial, yet it touches on some profound questions that confront us all. At the very least it’s entertaining.

What do you think? Is our children’s future going to include robots as part of an everyday household?