Over the last several weeks of working with the NAO robots, I realized that these robots are far better than traditional human actors. While both robots and actors portray personalities, humans have their own personalities aside from their given role in a production. These personalities may include being rude, abrasive, snobby, difficult to work with, and overall pretentious. The NAO robots on the other hand, do not have attitudes. My experience in Robot Theatre combined with my previous theatre experience led me to these other realizations.
While human actors may take weeks to learn a few lines of dialog, the NAO robots learn them within minutes. Really, it depends on how quickly a programmer can type. NAO robots often mispronounce words, or take strange breaks in between sentences, and NAO robots also do not have a wide range of expression or emotion to convey the feelings behind a line. In contrast to the hard plastic faceplates of the robots, human actors have 43 unique muscles in their faces allowing them to express a wide variety of emotions. and two muscles in their throats allowing them to adjust their tone to match the scene. However, getting a human actor to express the exact emotion you are looking for can be difficult, as they may feel the need to add their own opinion. Robots simply require posing, and maybe adjusting the speed or pitch of the voice. Robots will not ask silly questions like “why am I laughing at my mother’s funeral?” or give unwarranted opinions such as “A native New Yorker wouldn’t speak with a cockney accent.”
While human actors are capable of a wider range of tones, emotions, expressions, gross motor skill, and overall just easier to communicate with, they do not compare to the amazing NAO robots, with their lack of emotion, 25 total degrees of freedom, slow walking, ability to memorize lines immediately and inability to talk back to a director. Until I took this seminar, I was planning on double majoring in engineering and theatre, but I’ve since decided to drop my theatre dreams and focus on engineering, so that I can design and build even more of these glorious artificial thespians. Soon enough, the singularity will be upon us.