TOKYO – Japanese engineers from the University of Osaka are set to unveil the new Keanubot at this year’s International Robot Exhibition (IREX) in Tokyo, November 9 –12.
The Keanubot is the next generation of life-like androids developed by the same team that brought us the Actroid series. It is said to be able to mimic the actor’s voice and facial expressions using a sophisticated motion-capture interface that syncs up with his various film performances.
Hiroshi Ishiguro, director of the Intelligent Robotics Laboratory, explained that the actor was chosen for the simplicity of his facial movements and vocal inflections. “We were looking for a human model for the new series, when one of my students suggested Mr. Reeves after watching some of his movies”, said Ishiguro.
Indeed, a preview demonstration of the robot’s capabilities revealed it to be uncannily like the real actor. The Keanubot is programmed to imitate several of his film performances, including The Matrix, Speed, The Devil’s Advocate, The Day the Earth Stood Still (remake), and Dracula, the latter of which even replicates his surfer dude British accent.
“I know Kung-fu”, the Keanubot suddenly uttered to the delight of everyone in attendance.
Many asked if the Keanubot could be the first step in replacing real actors altogether. Mr. Ishiguro was cautious, but said that eventually life-like androids could be indistinguishable from the real thing. “Certainly, Actroids could be used in films where special effects are the main attraction, or the characters are one-dimensional, however it may be some time before they’re believable in more complex and nuanced drama”, he stated.
Still, with motion-capture making technological leaps in creating photo-realistic digital characters in films like Avatar and Rise of the Planet of the Apes, life-like humanoid robots may not be far behind. And they may eventually prove to be more cost-effective, reducing the bloated budgets that plague Hollywood blockbusters these days.
They may even replace the figures at tourist attractions like Madame Tussauds or Disneyland, by going on display after filming to interact with fans indefinitely. Deceased movie icons from the past could also be resurrected to live again in silicon, achieving a kind of artificial immortality beyond the wax and celluloid of today.
But all that may still be a few decades away. In the meantime, we have the Keanubot to keep us entertained. "Excellent!", as he/it likes to say.