We all knew that robots would one day replace most of our jobs, especially the more menial positions such as cashiers, baristas, and probably even taxi drivers – but we thought that acting in films was, at least, far off. Not so.
Currently, there is a $70 million science fiction film in the works called “b” that stars Erica – only Erica is an android. She is something out of an Isaac Asimov novel, a special kind of movie star who is immune to SARS and COVID, and pretty much any virus that is blown in her direction. She doesn’t take lunch breaks. Doesn’t need to rest and isn’t part of a union.
The only question is… can she act?
It remains to be seen, but it appears Hollywood is determined to find out.
The film is about a scientist who has come up with a program to perfect human DNA, eliminating some genetic diseases, but when it glitches and becomes dangerous the scientist must help Erica, the robot he created, escape the lab.
The producers, Sam Khoze and Anoush Sadegh, along with professors Hiroshi Ishiguro and Kohei Ogawa, of the University of Osaka and Telecommunication Research Institute, who built Erica, took on the task of training Erica to act, using Method Acting, popularized by Marlon Brando.
A tough task for even the most experienced acting coach. For starters, Erica has no life experiences. Her creators had to simulate her motions and emotions by controlling the speed of her movements, the pitch of her voice and coaching character development and body language.
While nowhere near perfect, Erica has the ability to interact with people by integrating various technologies such as voice recognition, human tracking, and natural motion generation. Visually, her almost-human appearance made her the best-known candidate for this non-human role.
However, just like any good Hollywood tale, Erica wasn’t built for the role. She just fell into the character when the producers came knocking.
“American History X” director Tony Kaye was originally going to use Erica in a feature film produced by Sam Khoze, but the project fell apart over scheduling conflicts. That film was titled “2nd Born” and was announced back in August 2018 but has since been dropped. However, it looks like, if all goes well, Erica’s acting debut isn’t far off.
There are a few hurdles to overcome: for example, a director for “b” has yet to be announced, and a few key roles have yet to be cast, but production on the film is being eyed to start in summer 2021, although the producers have already started to record footage of Erica.
Outside of her burgeoning film career, Erica can often be found in the lobby of Japan’s Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International, working on her acting skills. Whether filmgoers will accept Erica – or any robot for that matter – as an international film star is yet to be determined.
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