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Friday, 2 August 2013

Meet RoboThespian: the British robotic actor

There are around 35 of these robots in use around the world, performing on stage in plays and providing guided tours to the public in museums and exhibitions.
Equipped with cameras, depth perception and facial recognition, the robot is capable of reacting to its audience and adapting its script accordingly.
They are produced in a factory in Penryn, Cornwall, where it takes engineers around a week to build one of the human-like machines from scratch. A single robot starts at around £55,000 each.

Now in its third generation, the original robot, which started as an attempt to save exhibition guides from tediously repeating the same tour each day, it is now used for education around the world.
It has also been used to produce a live stage show with real robots while also makes appearances in plays in South Korea.
Nic Carey, humanoid robotics researcher at Engineered Arts, said: “It first started as a communication device to help educate people but they are now used as guides at exhibitions.
“In a way it was conceived as an actor as its primary personality.
“We do most of the research and manufacturer internally. We use air muscles from a company in Germany to make it move more realistically.

“We have a number of them being built at anyone time in our workshop.“
The RoboThespian can also be trained to recognise gestures such as a wave to say hello and can copy body poses with his arm.He can also be controlled remotely by people using a tablet in another room, while his facial expression can also be changed.
Anyone concerned about legions of humanoid robots being created that could one day take over the world as in the short story by Isaac Asimov and the film starring Will Smith, need not worry just yet.
The Engineered Arts factory has only around 12 robots in production at any one time and has taken six years of research to reach his current stage.
He requires regular charging and is often used plugged into a mains generator.

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