You guys remember Robo Thespian, the actor robot created by the Engineered Arts of Cornwall? Well, a few bright thinkers at the Queen Mary University of London decided to see if he was up to handling the toughest performance medium of all — stand-up comedy. And he actually wasn’t that bad.
Pat Healey, professor of human interaction and head of the Cognitive Science Group at QMUL, and Kleomenis Katevas, a doctoral candidate, had the idea to test an audience’s reaction to the robot by having him perform a set at the Barbican Center in London. Alongside him were human comedians, Tiernan Douieb and Andrew O’Neill, to act as controls to the experiment. Douieb even wrote the jokes that Robo Thespian would use on the crowd, which is kind of depressing when you consider that he’s basically teaching the robot how to replace him.
Robo Thespian’s set wasn’t perfect, of course — but he had some pretty decent jokes:
“I never really know how to start — which is probably because I run off Windows 8.”
“I once dated a Macbook. It didn’t work because she was all, “I this” and “I that.”
“I understand you like it when comedians complain. You know what really pushes my buttons? [points offstage] That guy who’s in control of me.”
That last one barely got any response, which is a crime. Robo Thespian should work on his delivery.
Which he will, actually — while he performed, Katevas and Healey set up cameras around the room to track the facial features and responses of people in the audience. They plan to use the collected data to tweek Robo Thespian’s software and make him a closer facsimile to human comedians.
To be fair, Robo Thespian isn’t the first comedy robot on the scene. That honor goes to Data, who in addition to being cuter and named after a Star Trek: The Next Generation character who really likes to tell jokes, is just maybe a little bit better at engaging with an audience. That’s because his programmer, Heather Knight, has programmed Data to improvise and cater his act to the viewer’s response. You can catch some of Data’s act in Knight’s TED talk below:
Data is pretty dang adorable, but Robo Thespian’s jokes are a lot better. You know, save for the out-of-place dalek reference. Don’t pander to your British audience, man! Find your own voice!
(via Phys Org)