Matt Gray Does The Robot

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They say that “all the world’s a stage,” and for Northeastern University professor Matt Gray, that world includes robot actors. Gray started out with an interest in old plays, but that has now turned into a fascination with how technology can be intertwined with theatre – and how old and new theatre can learn from and influence each other.

Scripts, like those written in Shakespeare’s iambic pentameter, can be considered code for actors, says Gray. Actors take those cues and perform the actions that they are programmed to do – much like robots.

“So though actors are asked to “be human,” they are accessing that humanity through a very carefully constructed code and I saw robots as being similar,” he says.

Bringing man and machine together, Gray adapted a silent Samuel Beckett play to be performed by mechanical vacuums. He coordinated four Roombas and presented the play for a live audience. In the show, robots are the actors and this made rdigitaLIFE host Ramona Pringle wonder: Why are humans increasingly uncomfortable with robots the closer they resemble us? Robots are becoming larger parts of our lives. Machines can wash our cars, cook our food, and some can even do medical procedures so how far will robotics go? What limits the evolution of human and robot interaction?

Gray tackles these questions and more in his interview “Robot Acting Coach.”

By: Ishani Nath (@ishaninath


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