Note: Gina penned an earlier version of this story at our sister publication, RobotRepublic. Check it out here.
aNewDomain — Robots will likely never replace human music conductors, but this industrial model sure makes a decent showing.
Meet YuMi, a collaborative dual-arm robot created by ABB, a Zurich-based industrial machine firm. At last week’s International Robotics Festival in Pisa, Italy, it conducted Andrea Bocelli, soprano Maria Luigia Borsi and the Lucca Philharmonic Orchestra.
The 15-minute performance comprised the interlude at a gala event for last week’s International Robotics Festival 2017 in Pisa. The point of the event wasn’t to suggest that robot may someday be suited for jobs as orchestral conductors, said ABB CEO Ulrich Spiesshofer. Directing is an intricate and emotional job that will most likely always be a human one.
Rather, the intention was to demonstrate the fluidity and flexibility of the YuMi design and its promise as an industrial robot that must collaborate with teams of humans on electro-mechanical assemblies, he said.
It was nevertheless beautiful.
YuMi first directed Bocelli singing “La Donna è Mobile,” the classic aria at the heart of Giuseppe Verdi’s “Rigoletto.” It then conducted Borsi in the famous soprano aria, “O, Mio Babbino Caro,” from Giacomo Puccini’s “Gianni Schicchi.” It wrapped up with part of the intermezzo from Mascagni’s “Cavalleria Rusticana.”
The event “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,” said Bocelli, meaningfully, after the program concluded.
That team included Andrea Colombini, who is the actual (human) director of the orchestra, whose conducting movements were captured and set up on YuMi through lead-through programming techniques.
As you can see in the behind the scenes videos below, preparing YuMi for the event involved guiding YuMi’s dual arms so they followed his motions — and recording them. At that point, robot engineers used ABB’s proprietary RobotStudio software to synchronize those remembered movements to music.
Find out more about YuMi here. And check out some more videos showing how engineers and musicians set up the performance and dress rehearsal footage, below.
For aNewDomain, I’m Gina Smith.
Here’s the dress rehearsal:
Here’s video showing YuMi’s pre-performance setup.
Finally, here’s an ABB video depicting YuMi’s tech specs.