What’s the best way to promote a more humanised approach to the world of dating? Show two robots going on a date, of course. This was the premise for tequila company Jose Cuervo’s advert. They wanted to show two customised robots having an awkward date to shift customers away from online dating and into real-world dating over a drink.

We could think of no better actor to portray a charmingly awkward robot than our very own RoboThespian.  

Making (robotic) small talk

Amazingly, the robots in the advert were having a genuine conversation between themselves, without the need to have humans programming each piece of dialogue manually. 

The scripts were built based on questionnaire responses for questions such as “if you were bored in a bar and wanted to go home, what would you say?” We compiled the answers to these questions from thousands of people, and combined it with data sets from TV scripts. Then we used it to train our AI.

This generated about 100 conversations for the robots to draw from. As advert director Mark Riesberg says, “we read a lot of it and a lot was pure nonsense and other parts were gold.” But isn’t that the case with human dating chat too? 

Once we had the robots’ cringe-inducing awkward date talk down, with classics such as “I’m single and ready to mingle” making an appearance, we had to create the animation and movements to go with the dialogue.

We animated the sequences and then tested them on the robots before refining them again and again until we had exactly what we wanted. Our own Daniel Bragg says of the process, “We can create any movements, whether it be a TikTok dance, a dab, there’s nothing we can’t do really.” The challenge for this performance though, was to make RoboThespian’s usually expressive movements much more subtle.

It’s all in the eyes

Because the performance was mainly conversational, Jose Cuervo wanted a lot of closeups on the robots’ faces and a lot of eye movement.

Eye actions such as giving sideways glances and raising their eyes were not actions our RoboThespians were used to performing so we had to customise the robots to give Jose Cuervo the perfectly awkward couple they wanted.

These closeups on the robot’s faces also meant they didn’t have to move their hands and arms as much as our robots usually would. Compared to our other animated robots who take the stage and move in a very expressive way, the movements here were very subtle and minimalist, in order to give a more robotic feel to the conversation.

This was different to how we normally work, but in the world of robotics there’s no such thing as normal.

Looking the part

Jose Cuervo’s designs had a specific look they wanted for the robots in terms of what they were wearing. Anyone who’s ever been on a date before will be familiar with the painstaking process of picking the right outfit. Are jeans too casual? Should you wear your hair up? Is that stain on your tie all that noticeable? 

Robots are no different, and we had our RoboThespians try on a lot of different clothes and wigs to ensure we had the right look and also the right materials. 

Some static in the hair of one of the wigs affected the robot’s circuitry, making their eyes behave erratically. We overcame this though, creating wig caps for the robots and fixing hooks into the wigs to ensure they stayed in place.

Like any great acting role, the hair and makeup process took a while, but it was worth it to get the RoboThespians looking as dashing as they did.

Our expert team is highly experienced at designing and manufacturing custom robotic commissions. Get in touch to see how we can bring your vision to life.