Robot conducts Andrea Bocelli

Concert conductor hands with baton

Something for the weekend: Much has been said about the impact of robotics and automation on the workplace, and how this may shape, create or displace job roles and ways of working. This discussion has generally not tended to focus on the creative and arts industries, yet technology organisation ABB has now provided us with a glimpse of robots’ potential role in the music world.

On 12 September, a dual-arm robot named YuMi showcased its skills at a charity concert gala in Pisa, Italy, as part of the First International Festival of Robotics. YuMi conducted an orchestra and directed Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli in a programme of Verdi. The robot then went on to conduct soloist Maria Luigia Borsi in an aria from Gianni Schicchi by Puccini, followed by a passage from the opera Cavalleria Rusticana.

To prepare YuMi for his performance, the movements of Andrea Colombini, director of the Lucca Philharmonic Orchestra, were captured during rehearsals. These recorded movements were then fine tuned using ABB’s RobotStudio software, and the motions were synchronised to music.

Bocelli said: “It was so much fun to perform with YuMi, ABB’s collaborative robot. It showed that a robot could really conduct an orchestra, but only with the excellent work of very talented engineers and a real maestro. Congratulations to the team that pulled this off.”

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While the performance was hailed as a success, ABB points out that robots are not expected to achieve and combine the skills required to match a human conductor.

Here at EB HQ, we are excited to see how YuMi’s talent develops. YuMi may be a robot but it definitely has more musical talent than us already…