Elderly storytelling android debuts in Japan

A robot copy of Beicho Katsura III, a master comic storyteller in Japan, takes the stage in Osaka and gets a few laughs.

Japanese rakugo master Beicho Katsura III looks on as his android likeness chats with journalists. Video screenshot by Tim Hornyak/CNET

The art of humorous storytelling in Japan, known as rakugo, isn't as popular as it once was. But now an android has joined the ranks of comics who kneel on cushions while spinning out jokes.

The narrative droid is a copy of Beicho Katsura III, an 86-year-old rakugo comic recognized by the government as a Living National Treasure.

The Beicho Android, as it's known, is the work of Osaka University professor Hiroshi Ishiguro , creator of the Geminoid series of lifelike androids, and makeup artist Shinya Endo.

Powered by air servos, the droid has all the idiosyncratic moves of Beicho performing rakugo, an art in which performers wear kimono and use only a kerchief and hand fan as props.

As seen in the vid below, it waves its arms, bows its head, and speaks in a gravelly voice like the master while narrating tales.

Its mouth isn't all that expressive but from far away, it's hard to notice. The robot cracked up a few journalists at a press conference.

It took two months to build and cost some $1 million, according to Sankei News.

It was unveiled as part of an exhibition that combines a retrospective on Beicho's career with exhibits on cutting edge tech in Osaka.

It's on from August 1 to 9 at Sankei Hall Breeze, where the droid is slated to do hourly impersonations of the elderly artist.


(Via Sankei News)

 

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