Sorry, theater actors: now robots can play leading roles

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Mariella Moon
October 21st, 2014
In this article: france, Japan, Kafka, theatre
Sorry, theater actors: now robots can play leading roles

We've seen robots star in plays before, but the one in a new production of Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis doesn't take on a bit role or even a supporting one: it's the show's lead actor. While we feel bad for struggling theater performers who can never seem to get a big break, it seems rather fitting for a robot to take center stage for this particular story. See, The Metamorphosis is about a man who inexplicably turns into a giant insect -- the play's director, Oriza Hirata, just substituted a robot for the bug in this Japanese-French production. Sure, it's a lot easier to just get someone who can act like an automaton, but where's the fun in that?

Hirata didn't even pick an old robot for the job. No, he collaborated with roboticist Hiroshi Ishiguro (whom you might remember for creating creepy humanoid machines) to develop Repliee S1 for the part, and he made sure it can smile, laugh and even speak its lines in an automated voice. While its body's mostly made of metal framing, its hands and face are human-like and stark white, something which the actress that plays its mother compares to "Masque Blanc" or white mask for the theater. If you want to see how Repliee S1 fares on stage, you'll have to catch this high-tech version of Kafka's tale (aptly entitled La Metamorphose Version Androide) in Yokohama, Japan this week, or in Normandy, France in November during the region's Autumn Festival.

[Image credit: AFP/Getty Images]

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