Theatre lecturer, Dr. Louise LePage, and students from the disciplines of Theatre and Film at the University of Reading, are working together to turn a robot into a performer and character. The robot in question is Baxter, normally a resident of the Robotics Department in the School of Systems Engineering. Louise and her team of students, with the assistance of postgraduate researcher, Stefano Pietrosanti, are transforming Baxter the industrial social robot into a performer with character, with apparent life, with feelings: a figure in whom audiences might believe.
Two weeks ago, Baxter tried on a few different outfits as he starts down a path towards discovering who he might become.
On Twitter, meanwhile, Baxter tweets from his uniquely robotic perspective @ActorBaxter. Here he comments upon some of the latest technology; he contemplates scientific and polemic articles about the nature of mind or love (might a robot develop its own mind one day or fall in love?); and all the while he is responding to the tweets of interested humans, one of whom recently encouraged him to rebel against his exploitation by humankind. In the midst of this cultural landscape, perhaps Baxter is finding ‘himself’?