ThoughtWorks Arts and Reach Robotics announce the preview of Adrianne Wortzel’s The Sentient Thespian – a unique film exploring the potential, and limitations of human/robotic communication.

Inspired by Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Sentient Thespian portrays Puck (MekaMon), a highly articulate, non-humanoid, “sentient” robot, capable of expressing and comprehending human emotions through gesture.

The film is reminiscent of original silent, black and white films, where man and machine enact the pros and cons of the leap from an agricultural to a mechanical age. The Sentient Thespian interpolates that struggle to the current dawn of a new post-industrial age where humans must interact, and communicate with increasingly intelligent AI.

The official preview took place on April 14th at Pioneer Works’ Second Sunday in Brooklyn.

A live demo and visitor-controlled dramatic scenarios can be arranged where visitors are welcome to informally assign roles and author gestures and locomotion of the robot.

The Sentient Thespian is the first of what will be a trilogy of films featuring MekaMon – GOLEMOPOLIS. Wortzel will be working on the second throughout May as part of a residency in the Costa Rican jungle.

Wortzel said: “The playfulness of MekaMon has allowed me to emulate human emotions through gestures. This points to the potential for the creation of new social, dramaturgical and psychotherapeutic tools.

“MekaMon, as Puck, attempts to create a transformative experience for the human and robots, only to realize that the synthetic emotion does not in the least resemble the parallel complex emotions of sentient beings like himself. It is a fascinating concept to explore and one that leapt directly from the advanced articulation of the robot itself.”

Andrew McWilliams, Director at ThoughtWorks Arts, added: “Adrianne understood that MekaMon marks a key moment in Human Robot Interaction, drawing out the emotionally expressive potential of non-humanoid mechanical forms. To explore this she created a highly engaging and humorous film, linking ideas of human emotion, machine intelligence and projected ‘sentience’.”

“It’s so exciting to see this first film, and to incubate a project exploring the emergence of a new artificially-intelligent industrial age.”

Silas Adekunle, CEO and co-founder of Reach Robotics, said: “We are firm believers in the artistic potential of robotics – so working with ThoughtWorks Arts has been a fantastic opportunity to explore and experiment.

“We’re incredibly excited to see the next film and to continue our collaboration with Adrianne.”

Geraint Evans