iRobot? More like iActor!


They may look more like Wall-E than the raging humanoid robots in ‘I, Robot’, but these thespian actors are certainly causing a stir. RoboThespian is the creation of Cornish engineer Will Jackson who had an idea to develop an artistic robot that could react with its audiences. Six years ago he embarked on a project to create a robot that would save tour guides from tediously repeating the same script each day. Today, around 35 RoboThespians are delighting theatre-goers and tourists throughout the world. They are also trained to recognise gestures such as waving goodbye and are able to copy body poses. They are multi-lingual and can even sing. But not everyone is pleased with the humanoid robots. Jackson told Humans Invent how one RoboThespian was punched by someone in Germany. In a separate event Jackson describes how ‘a guy took offence because he thought the robot had looked at his girlfriend’s tits basically and tried to attack it. ‘They said the robot always had a habit of looking low which caused this problem. It never made eye contact, it always looked at people’s mid body’. Jackson’s company, Cornish-based Engineered Arts, is the world’s only maker of commercially available life sized humanoid robots. It produces the parts from an industrial unit near Falmouth with one robot costing around £55,000. They can also be rented out for a day or leased for a year. Their movements are based on a piece of software called SHORE developed in Germany. This allows them to compare faces to a large database to extract where somebody is, whether they are male or female, their age and whether they are happy or angry, neutral or disinterested. Now in its third generation, it’s not just theatres, science centres and visitor attractions, that are benefiting from the talents of RoboThespian.