Rehearsal for the Robot Revolution

Elizabeth Jochum, Ken Goldberg

Research output: Contribution to conference without publisher/journalPaper without publisher/journalResearchpeer-review


This paper considers the use of tele-operated and autonomous robots in live performance. Theatre is a conducive to studying what makes robots compelling and engaging. Because theatre is a narrowly defined domain in which robots can excel, it is a useful test bed for exploring issues that are central to social robotics. However automated performances that merely substitute robotic actors for human ones do not always capture our imagination or prove entertaining. While some plays explore ambivalence to robots or “misbehaving machines” thematically (such as R.U.R.), the exigencies of live theatre do not allow for editing or special effects. Unlike film, robots onstage must be highly calibrated and run the risk of appearing like over-rehearsed actors. How do artists create engaging performances while ensuring reliable and robust performances? What can robot designers and researchers learn from robot peformances? This paper considers the design and staging of robots in live theatre. Citing examples of machinic performances absent of human actors, interactive robotic art works, human-robot opera, puppetry and traditional spoken-word plays, we demonstrate how creative approaches to robot dramaturgy and puppetry-inspired control techniques create compelling and interactive performances. Theatre performances function as authentic sites of human-robot interaction staged in fictional landscapes that both exaggerate and occlude the capabilities of robots.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date27 Oct 2014
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 27 Oct 2014
EventInternational Conference on Social Robotics: Robots and Art - Sydney, Australia
Duration: 27 Oct 201429 Oct 2014


ConferenceInternational Conference on Social Robotics


  • robots
  • art
  • Uncanny Valley
  • Performance


Dive into the research topics of 'Rehearsal for the Robot Revolution'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this