RoboThespian & Will Jackson in the Impossible TEDx Talk
Note: All TEDx Truro photos courtesy of Verity Westcott.
Earlier in the year, our director Will Jackson was approached by TEDx Truro. TEDx being the independently organised events in the style of it’s bigger brother ted.com. For those who don’t know, TED’s philosophy is to present engaging and intelligent talks from leaders in their respective fields, for approx 15 minutes. When approached, we were (and still are) elbow-deep in our busiest year ever. Even taking a day to go and do a talk in Truro (10 miles drive) for Will was a very big ask. Initially, we discussed the concept as a team and decided that committing to a talk would be too much of a stretch. So we resigned our thoughts to “maybe next year”.
Need Captivating Talk VS Having No Time…
A few months prior, we had started a big presentation about AI and Robotics. Will was unable to make the talk in person, so we prepared RoboThespian to take his place. Using Will’s voice recordings we used our Virtual Robot software to animate the movements of the robot, including automatic lip sync on importing the audio. This talk was almost ready, so we adapted it to fit the themes of Beyond Barriers, and adjusted the length to fit the TED format. Suddenly we were back on, and could simultaneously deliver a talk by Will Jackson, without him actually having to deliver the talk itself. Meaning he could concentrate on our aforementioned record busy period, whilst still being able to meet his commitment to deliver a thought-provoking talk.
Along with the words by Will, there was also a small team assembled to make the rest work. Joe Wollaston animated the robot and Michael dealt with the visuals in the slides. The performance was fully repeatable so timings could be practised and nailed well in advance. Once complete, Design & Production Engineer Marcus Hold took the robot to set up at the venue (Truro & Penwith College) the day before the talk. RoboThespian breezed through a dress rehearsal and the stage was set for a thrilling talk.
Break a Leg
Will & RoboThespian were scheduled to talk at 13.45. Will and Marcus arrived an hour before showtime. RoboThespian was moved onto the stage and they were ready to go. Will had been thinking long and hard about what he was going to say in one sentence. He did not disappoint. In his typical dry delivery, Will uttered the words “I’ve spent 12 years developing a robot so I wouldn’t have to deliver this talk”.
And so it was underway. A 15-minute talk on AI and robotics. Devised by Will, delivered by RoboThespian and watched by an audience that was not necessarily a techie one. A difficult task, even for a human to pull off.
RoboThespian, of course, did not disappoint. The audience was visibly and audibly impressed, laughing at the gags and listening intently throughout. The smooth motion and expressive face helped the audience engage in the willful suspension of disbelief. Additionally, RoboThespian used as a medium to deliver a talk on robotics and AI, only served to add poignancy to the points made.
What People Had to Say
RoboThespian was definitely a highlight for many people at TEDxTruro on 27 October – he even managed to get some of the biggest laughs from the audience on the day! – Mandy Reynolds (TEDx Truro Curator & Co-licensee)
…my little boy who is four has talked of little else than RoboThespian since I showed him a photo of me standing beside the robot on Friday. He is even taking the photo to school this week for his show and tell! He had so many questions about how RoboThespian worked and how he was able to talk and move. It is lovely to be able to reach out and inspire even the youngest in society in a way that I don’t think a human presenter could have! – Donna Black (TEDx Truro Team Member)
The actual Talk…
So it is clear the talk was a success, and in reality, it probably took Will 2 hours of his time. However, there is no reason why the robot couldn’t do the talk without the creator being there at all. It is a viable option for other customers who have a VIP that wants a presence at an event, but cannot attend personally. This presents the essence of the person in a novel and engaging way, without ever having to visit the location themselves. Or in a more likely scenario, if you just want to deliver a talk or pitch with a difference. RoboThespian is a great choice. RoboThespian is available for both purchase and rent. We can expertly craft your content here, or you can use our powerful online software “Virtual Robot” to craft it, just the way you like it. Please contact us for more information any of this.
A bonus thought experiment. In a talk about AI, delivered by a robot, can you guess what the letters on the slide stands for? (Hint Watch the video to find out.)