Don’t Quit Your Day Job: Robot Musicians

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March 29, 2013 by katmcdaniel

© Mr Wabu under CCLicense

© Mr Wabu under CCLicense

A whimsical and eye-opening tour of robots performing. Your printer won’t be going on tour soon, but technology is improving!

First up, a cover of Maroon 5’s Moves Like Jagger by the EOL Robot Band.  If you find the lead singer is curiously reminiscent of Steven Hawking, you’ll be interested to know that the Vocals Digital DECtalk Express used here is the same type of unit Hawking used back in the 1980’s, controlled here by a Genesi Linux box. He’s a real scream, “uuuuuhhh”. The rest of the band is fairly impressive: Robot Snare, Robot Bass Drum, Robot Tambourine, Robot Keyboard and HP Scanner, who pretty much steals the show.

Video via bd594 on YouTube.

Perhaps the original song has enough electronic components that the band, excluding the singer, of course, doesn’t sound very far removed. How well do they do without the singer? Try this version of Marilyn Manson’s The Beautiful People. HP Scanner is in fine form again and we now have Robot Bass.

A bit mechanical? Well, what about something more acoustic… say brass and percussion? Meet Toyota’s Concero Quartet: Harry (trumpet), Dave (trumpet), Chuck (tuba), and Ritchie (drums). Not too shabby, and no one is miscounting their rests!

Video via gustavokenichi on YouTube.

I think they managed to put the appropriate ego into the lead trumpet player. If that doesn’t scare you, the next robot band from the University of Pennsylvania is comprised of quadrorotors, the same technology that pilots many automated military drones. The execution is much weaker than that of robots specifically designed to play music, but the visual is entertaining.

Video via UnivPennsylvania on YouTube.

All of these robots perform pre-programmed or learned routines. What about a robot that improvises? This is Shimon, created by the Georgia Institute of Technology. He learns to play in the style of jazz greats while improvising with a human partner.

Finally, what about replacing a vocalist with an android? Okay, I can hear you reciting singer jokes, but this is actually the most difficult sound to reproduce. Feast your eyes on HRP-4C, a female android that sings, complete with voice imitation software.

Perhaps she will do well at karaoke, but I can’t imagine her capturing a resonant female voice. My guess is that pop singers who rely on autotune should be slightly worried.

What do you think? Do robots have a chance as musicians?

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