Human social interactions are based on the correct response to social situations. If someone does not respond in an expected way, he/she is margined by the others. Thus, robots that interact with humans in everyday life places, such as home, office, classroom and public spaces, should not only accomplish their task, but also be accepted by humans, which means that they feel comfortable to interact with robots. As a consequence, social robots must have the capacity to show emotions and behave in a socially correct way. However, building robots that could accomplish their tasks and show emotion is not an easy job due to the difficulty to select the correct emotion, show the emotion in a way that could be understandable by humans, together with all the traditional problems to perform a given task. This makes crucial to find a real environment that allows focusing the research efforts on the production of effective social and emotional interaction, without the need for other abilities (e.g., emotion detection, status detection, person recognition, etc.). Several researches have suggested that theatre could be an excellent place to test social and emotional abilities, due to theatre constraints that make the actor know what to say, how to react, where is expected to be the objects and other actors. All of this information is given before hand in a script. However, the few works that have been put robots on stage in the last decade have used theatre as an environment to create robots for entertainment, without worrying about the use theatre actorâ€™s training theories to make the robot project emotions to the audience. TheatreBot aims at exploiting theatre constraints to build a robotic platform and software that allow the robot to be an actor in theatre and not just as prop, as currently is happening. The system and platform are designed to allow extension to other application areas where showing emotions are important as in robot games and assistive robots. To accomplish this goal, the robot will use a relational social and social model of the world to represent its characterâ€™s feelings and belief about the world. Besides, the concept of emotional state is used to add emotional features to action performance, so obtaining a full range of possibilities to show emotional and social interaction.
Theatre is considered as lively art. Thanks to theatre characteristics, constraints, and actorsâ€™ lessons, it is an excellent place to test coordination and expressiveness in robots, and actors training systems can inspire the development of expressive robots. People are used to think at theatre as a repetitive show, and essential points that make theatre a lively art are often forgotten:
During a theatre performance actors do not have a second chance to perform in front of the same audience. If an actor fails remembering a line, or he/she does not show a believable character, the audience are going to get a bad impression of the play.
Each performance is unique. No matter how much effort actors do to repeat each time the same performance, subtle changes could be seen: actors’ and objects’ stage position, actors’ mood and, more importantly, audience’s attitude.
Audience’s attitude affects actors. Actor could hear laughs, coughs, silence, and could even feel the tension in the audience. This could eager or discourage actors, affecting the whole performance.
The performance outcome does not rely on one person. Good outcome comes from correct collaboration and coordination of playwriter, director, technical people and performers. In the specific performers case, they must work as a unity and show to the public a coherent story.
Theatre is an excellent framework to focus on specific abilities and features to produce effective social and emotional interaction, without the need for other abilities (e.g., emotion detection, status detection, person recognition, etc.), which are provided by the script and the director:
The play script contains all the necessary information: actions, coordination cues, dialogues, and characters attitude.
Since the script is known before any representation, rehearsals can be done to get used with objects’ and performers’ positions.