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The First Robot That Behaves Like a Human

RoboThespian is the first commercial robot that can hold eye contact, tell a joke, and perform "Singin' in the Rain."

Deep inside a Cornwall warehouse, a pair of eyes are watching your moves very closely. They don't belong to a human, much less to an animal. They belong to a genial robot who longs to crack jokes and sing funny songs. 

Designed by robot manufacturing company Engineered Arts in England, RoboThespian, as this robot is called, represents the future of robotics--and maybe business in general.

The human-sized machines, priced roughly between $83,000 and $92,000, were created with museum tour guides in mind, reports the Guardian. And for good reason--they're natural performers. "It is really tedious for someone to stand in a space and repeat the same information all day every day," said Engineered Arts founder Will Jackson. "It was ripe for automation."

RoboThespian can be controlled by a tablet and is the first full-sized, commercially available humanoid robot, Jackson said. Capable of guessing someone's mood and age, RoboThespians usually ship in two weeks and may soon perform collaborative tasks since they're able to work with others. 

The next phase of Jackson's work will see the androgynous Byrun, a heavier machine that can walk, hop, and jump, Jackson said. A walking prototype is expected in a year, and is designed to resemble a human as much as possible--Jackson's ultimate dream. 

So will these robots take over the workforce, as experts predict?

Not quite, according to a Pew survey conducted earlier this month. "For many classes of jobs, robots will continue to be poor labor substitutes," said Salesforce's chief scientist JP Rangaswami, who was interviewed by Pew. That's especially the case when it comes to high-level management, customer service, and creative pursuits such as writing, photography, and filmmaking, which require more brainpower. 

IMAGE: Getty Images
Last updated: Aug 18, 2014

JILL KRASNY | Staff Writer

Jill Krasny is a staff writer for Inc. magazine, where she covers the intersection of entertainment and startups. Prior to Inc., she was a writer for MTV and Esquire and an editor at TheStreet. She is a graduate of the University of Southern California with a degree in communication. She lives in New York City.

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