Android rakugo storyteller makes debut in Osaka

July 25, 2012

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

Famed rakugo storyteller Katsura Beicho, 86, appeared amused if slightly taken aback as his android double performed a familiar tale at its debut July 23 at an Osaka theater.

The eerily lifelike android was developed by an Osaka theater management company in cooperation with Hiroshi Ishiguro, a robotics professor at Osaka University. It was modeled on a nine-year-old photo of Beicho.

Beicho's eldest son, Katsura Yonedanji, 53, also a rakugo performer, emulated his father's movements by watching a video. The results were then fed into a computer.

The android moves in sync with audio of Beicho telling a rakugo tale when he was in his 50s.

Beicho stared in wonder at the android as it performed. "Looking at the various parts, there are certain similarities," he admitted.

However, he also expressed some reservations about something that bore such a striking resemblance.

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
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Katsura Beicho, right, looks on as his android version performs July 23. (Ryo Ikeda)

Katsura Beicho, right, looks on as his android version performs July 23. (Ryo Ikeda)

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  • Katsura Beicho, right, looks on as his android version performs July 23. (Ryo Ikeda)

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