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Erica the robot
courtesy of Osaka University

An AI robot has been cast in the lead role of an upcoming sci-fi film

Erica, a robot designed by Japanese scientists, has been taught how to act by ‘applying the principles of method acting to artificial intelligence’

Over the past few years, AI-driven robots have entered the art world (see: Ai-Da, the world’s first AI artist), joined the fight against coronavirus, and – as far back as 2017 – been granted citizenship. So what’s to stop them becoming Hollywood’s next biggest stars?

Not all that much, apparently, because an AI robot named Erica has officially been given the lead role in an upcoming sci-fi film, b.

A robot created by Japanese scientists Hiroshi Ishiguro and Kohei Ogawa, Erica is set to be the first artificially intelligent actor to carry a full film, as claimed by the film’s producers (although Sophia the Robot did feature in a short spin on Westworld back in 2019).

b isn’t a particularly small debut either; with a budget of $70 million, according to the Hollywood Reporter, the film follows a scientist who realises flaws in a program he created to perfect human DNA, and helps the AI woman he designed – played by Erica – to escape.

Besides creating Erica, Ishiguro and Ogawa are responsible for teaching the robot how to act, apparently “applying the principles of method acting to artificial intelligence”.

“In other methods of acting, actors involve their own life experiences in the role,” adds Sam Khoze, one of the film’s producers. “But Erica has no life experiences.” 

“She was created from scratch to play the role. We had to simulate her motions and emotions through one-on-one sessions, such as controlling the speed of her movements, talking through her feelings and coaching character development and body language.”

Some of Erica’s scenes were reportedly filmed in Japan in 2019, while the rest of b is slated to be shot in Europe in 2021.