Culture

Robot conducts tenor Bocelli, orchestra in Pisa

Robot conducts tenor Bocelli, orchestra in Pisa”

On Tuesday, the Lucca Philharmonic Orchestra performed in front of a crowd at Teatro Verdi in Pisa, Italy. "It is unlikely robots will ever prove capable of combining the scholarship, artistry, technique, interpretation and charisma of a skilled human conductor", it says.

Borsi looked apprehensive as she stood in her shocking pink concert gown, waiting for the robot to begin directing the classic soprano aria "O Mio Babbino Caro" ("Oh My Beloved Father") by Puccini.

There was just one thing a little bit off: The conductor was a robot.

"One of the biggest barriers in robotics is not the physical hardware [but] the engineering that it takes to teach a robot what to do", said ABB's chief executive, Ulrich Spiesshofer, in comments included in a company-produced YouTube video.

The 84-lb. bot has wrists, elbows, and shoulders that give it wide freedom of motion.

The performance was a world first by a robotic conductor and celebrated Italy's "First International Festival of Robotics", which kicked off Friday. YuMi uses a process called "lead through" programming, which means it can be physically taught rather than relying on back-end software. Made by the Swedish - Swiss tech firm ABB, the two-armed robot, known by the name YuMi, was seen guiding the tenor and the team of musicians through some great classical compositions like "La Donna è Mobile", the famous aria from Verdi's "Rigoletto".

"It was extremely hard to train", says Andrea Colombini, the conductor of the Lucca Philharmonic Orchestra. YuMi's attempts at these movements were recorded, then the robot's moves were fine-tuned, reaching an unexpected level.

It's not a particularly friendly looking robot, and Colombini acknowledged that they did not get on at first.

"It is ultimately not gifted with human sensitivity", Colombini wrote.

The event showed that humans and robots can work in harmony.



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