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Toyota Robot Violinist Wows At Shanghai Expo

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the is-it-using-the-suzuki-method? dept.

Music 121

kkleiner writes "The Shanghai World Expo got a special treat this past week in the Japanese pavilion, when Toyota's famed violin-playing robot thrilled the crowd with a rendition of the Chinese folk song Mo Li Hua (jasmine flower). The bipedal artificial violinist hasn't been seen much since its debut back in 2007. Now we have footage of the Toyota bot playing Mo Li Hua in Shanghai as well as its original rendition of Pomp and Circumstance from 2007."

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The Future of Music (2, Insightful)

Stereoface (1400061) | more than 4 years ago | (#32317670)

Now we just need robots to write hit records!

Re:The Future of Music (1)

binarylarry (1338699) | more than 4 years ago | (#32317706)

Or that can playing something other than pentatonic scales!

Re:The Future of Music (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 4 years ago | (#32319414)

Or that can playing something other than pentatonic scales!

Bravo.

If noatkl can make interesting music on my macbook, then this robot ought to be able to do something besides mess around on the black keys.

Re:The Future of Music (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 4 years ago | (#32317920)

What do you mean? I thought those American Idol "hits" are already cranked out by some machine? I mean, it's not like these run-off-the-mill songs need any thought to be created.

Re:The Future of Music (1)

jhoegl (638955) | more than 4 years ago | (#32318496)

Really?
You really think that there is a song out there about something original yet to be written?

Really?

Re:The Future of Music (3, Funny)

WiseWeasel (92224) | more than 4 years ago | (#32318646)

You've likely never heard anything quite like the robot's latest heartwarming masterpiece, Ode To Data Integrity. Certainly a worthy follow up to classic spoken-word lounge room hit, Destroy All Humans.

Re:The Future of Music (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32318772)

Really?

Yes.
 
  I'm sure you're as shocked as somebody who sits at the patent office and says that nothing else original can ever be invented. Do yourself a favour and stop being dramatic.

Re:The Future of Music (1)

Devout_IPUite (1284636) | more than 4 years ago | (#32320128)

Music however is extremely derivative and almost every topic has been covered already. Before you were born. I think the few ways you can write new content include by writing about current events or science...

Re:The Future of Music (1)

clarkkent09 (1104833) | more than 4 years ago | (#32318666)

That's what monkeys are for.

Re:The Future of Music (3, Interesting)

damnfuct (861910) | more than 4 years ago | (#32319614)

and a robot RIAA

Re:The Future of Music (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32319980)

Wow this robot can dance, play instruments, cook and do other shit, unlike fat ass americans, how does it feel to be so helpless Americans?

Met your inconpetent children's future boss bwahahahahaha!

Land of Hope and Glory (1)

SimonTheSoundMan (1012395) | more than 4 years ago | (#32317704)

I salute you, Robot!

Re:Land of Hope and Glory (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32318826)

Dear Humans,

We no longer require musicians, please ensure they vacate the earth within the next 24 hours.

Sincerely,

The Robots

Re:Land of Hope and Glory (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 4 years ago | (#32321806)

The Robots are gonna be pissed when they find out we always mod their threats as "funny"

Robot band (3, Informative)

Scrameustache (459504) | more than 4 years ago | (#32317764)

They also have one that plays the trumpet: http://www.toyota.co.jp/en/special/robot/ [toyota.co.jp]

And backup dancers.

Re:Robot band (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | more than 4 years ago | (#32318318)

Bah [youtube.com] !

wow (2, Interesting)

v1 (525388) | more than 4 years ago | (#32317784)

nicely done. I like how it sort of did that "swaying" thing that violinists do as they play, "throwing themselves into the music" so to speak. Gave it a MUCH more realistic feel.

Though with all the lip-syncing going on these days, (even at the Olympics [youtube.com] , I have to have a slight suspicion that the performance wasn't "live" from the violin. They could have easily rigged it to not make a sound and simply play the sound out a hidden speaker on the 'bot. But that's just my pessimistic nature.

And it didn't even fall down any stairs or anything either, that was a plus.

Re:wow (1)

thoughtsatthemoment (1687848) | more than 4 years ago | (#32317822)

I don't think it was faked. In the second video the audience can be seen seated right in front of the robot. They should be able to tell where the sound comes from.

Not impressed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32317856)

As soon as one plays Charlie Daniel's [youtube.com] I'll be impressed.

Re:wow (1)

v1 (525388) | more than 4 years ago | (#32317916)

They should be able to tell where the sound comes from.

That was my initial thought also. But then I realized, they could easily have a speaker IN the violin. It never even came out of its hand. I'd have liked to see them play a few chords on it and then place it in its hand to take over, but I'd bet money that violin was bolted to his hand.

Re:wow (1)

thoughtsatthemoment (1687848) | more than 4 years ago | (#32317954)

There has to be a synchronization between the movement and sound, especially you can see how the robot is able to change the angles.

Re:wow (1)

Devout_IPUite (1284636) | more than 4 years ago | (#32320158)

The violin probably wasn't bolted to the hand, it just was holding the neck in an unrealistic way to compensate for the lack of dexterity. I'll begin to be impressed when the robot lifts the violin, places it's head on the shoulder rest and then removes the left hand to tune the strings...

Re:wow (2, Informative)

FiloEleven (602040) | more than 4 years ago | (#32320428)

I'll be impressed when it sounds better than a mediocre high-school orchestra player. I was actually surprised at how poor of a performance it gave--the idea is neat, but I expected them to have something more polished before putting it in front of an audience.

Re:wow (1)

Pharmboy (216950) | more than 4 years ago | (#32317926)

I agree that it was real. It had no "soul" to the playing, it was just mechanically accurate (ie: very average high school violinist), but still a stunning engineering feat. The swaying and such did make him look more human. While I don't expect a robot to ever have the finess of a human player (although it can be programmed to COPY a version), it was still very, very impressive.

Re:wow (3, Interesting)

Sir_Lewk (967686) | more than 4 years ago | (#32318140)

I'm not a musician of any kind so please excuse my ignorance, but what exactly is "soul" in this context? I've heard it mentioned numerous times, but never really defined. Does the music have no soul because it is technically accurate, or is that just a side note? Is a certain amount of carefully planned imperfection needed? Couldn't you program such imperfection into this robot?

Re:wow (2, Interesting)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 4 years ago | (#32318374)

Hmm. I think "soul" in a musical context means individual mannerisms and embellishments. Take for example this [youtube.com] video of savant Glenn Gould and observe how he feels the music(skip to 2:05 for some coolness). You could view "soul" as the non-musical movements, kinda like interpretive dance.

Technically, soul is the unique personal interpretation of the sheet music. Experienced musicians who know a piece well will, for example, play a certain passage more slowly because it's implied in the sheet music, even though there is no indication to slow down. A violinist or vocalist may or may not accent arbitrary notes and end long notes with trailing vibrato. [wikipedia.org] The intensity and speed of a vibrato as well as changes in speed an intensity of a single vibrato are a good indication of individual style.

Portamento [wikipedia.org] is a powerful tool for puttin' a little soul into vocals. The best way to explain portamento is This [youtube.com] - I alredy skipped it for you, so just let'er rip.

Re:wow (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 4 years ago | (#32318430)

I don't think anybody really knows because (so far as I know) it hasn't been studied, so everybody just believes whatever they want. It shouldn't be hard to run a Turing-style test for this, but (as with audiophile equipment) I think most people don't really want to know, mainly because they assume they already do.

Re:wow (5, Interesting)

Pharmboy (216950) | more than 4 years ago | (#32318500)

"Soul" is the minor imperfections that give music character and make the same piece unique from one musician to another. As an example: One of the tricks of using digital drums and making them sound like someone is sitting at a drum set is to mess with the quantizing a bit, randomize the beats by a measure of just a few microseconds so they are in time, but not PERFECT time. You might even put in very tiny errors that don't distract from the rhythm. No real drummer is "perfect", and drums that are perfect sound fake and mechanical, even if the tones are perfectly sampled.

Same with any other instrument, but more so as you not only vary the execution of each note in a micro level, but also the dynamics (how loud, how soft a note is). Good violin playing will be more dynamic, with musician playing more aggressive in "busy" parts, and playing with a lighter touch in other places. It varies more than just the overall volume level, as playing harder and more aggressive on strings changes the entire tonal characteristics (ie: slightly more higher pitched harmonics for starters.) There was other things missing, such as no vibrato in any of the sustained notes (vibrating slightly up and down in pitch on a sustained note to give it depth).

I was a musician for most of my life, playing primarily blues guitar, and while I can *show* you easily, I'm not the best at explaining it. Hope this helps answer a very valid question.

Re:wow (1)

Sir_Lewk (967686) | more than 4 years ago | (#32318774)

Thanks, this did help a lot.

Re:wow (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 4 years ago | (#32319120)

And outside the world of ABX testing, "soul" is also the human need to anthropomorphize the musician. You could have a perfect CD or a "soulified" CD made by computers and it'd never provoke the same feelings as live music does. You can gather 10000 people to listen to a band but just to play the songs from CD and watch a video of the stage show? If you asked a robot he'd tell you the sensory input was 99.9% the same, if you ask people they'd tell you it was 1% of the experience. Sure, right now it got a little bit of novelty but going to a robot concert will be exactly like listening to a CD, the robot doesn't know you're there, doesn't care and doesn't feel the music even if plays (im)perfectly like a human.

Re:wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32319424)

While i agreed with you in general, there are always exceptions to the rule. If they can it with a clear screen and a animated singer, they can do it with a robot with the right technology and marketing. Soul can be faked with the right technology (adjusting the robot's playing based on it's surrounding).

Reference: http://asiajin.com/blog/2009/08/25/virtual-singer-application-vocaroid-played-her-first-live-for-25000-fans/

Re:wow (1)

Phroggy (441) | more than 4 years ago | (#32319918)

...going to a robot concert will be exactly like listening to a CD, the robot doesn't know you're there, doesn't care and doesn't feel the music even if plays (im)perfectly like a human.

Two objections: first, plenty of people enjoy listening to CDs recorded by real musicians, and the music sounds full of "soul" to them. Yet a CD is just a bunch of 1s and 0s, a perfect (enough) mechanical reproduction of a human performance. If you can build a robot that can mechanically duplicate a human performance, then a recording of the robot will sound basically the same as a recording of the human.

Second, microphones and speakers cannot reproduce the sound of live instruments. There's a huge difference between the sound of a player piano live in the room, and a recording of the same player piano playing on a CD. The same is true of other instruments. If you can play live instruments robotically, you can get the sound of live instruments without live musicians.

I'm not saying they're there yet, of course.

Re:wow (1)

damnfuct (861910) | more than 4 years ago | (#32319630)

It's a great explanation!

Re:wow (1)

Dr. Spork (142693) | more than 4 years ago | (#32320024)

Right, but... I'm sure that there is a setting on the robot by which you can tell it to modulate its dynamics and the random rhythmic noise you mention would be even easier to introduce. Then you have the unique quirks of a genuine acoustic instrument, and with this combination, I'm sure a robot can produce music that sounds pretty darn soulful. Of course this requires some extra programming, and there is little hope that the robot would figure out on its own which parts deserve soulful emphasis, delay or whatever. But, I bet that software could be designed to listen to great performances of music and detect and precisely quantify all changes in dynamics and deviations from the metronome. Once this info is added to the score, a sufficiently dexterous robot should be able to reproduce the soulfulness of a great performance by Joshua Bell or whoever. Right? I mean, it's not magic...

Re:wow (1)

ldobehardcore (1738858) | more than 4 years ago | (#32320172)

Personally, I kinda want to believe it is "magic" or at least something unique to humanity. But logically, I understand that (most likely) soulful technique is something that is just a product of randomness and imperfect perception. I guess what I'm saying is: I'd like to believe good playing technique is unique to humans, but glad that it probably isn't.

Re:wow (2, Interesting)

Pharmboy (216950) | more than 4 years ago | (#32321438)

You can program a robot to make random changes, but that isn't the same. A human doesn't try to make random errors, they put "expression" into it. My explanation of it being random variations is only a technical and quantifiable outcome. A trained musician could easily tell the robot's playing versus a humans because the variations wouldn't be within the normal expression of music, and would be just random. Just as a good musician can usually pick out digital drums in a mix. No matter how much you randomize, you can get it to sound "similar", but it is always lacking. To the average ear, it is close enough that it doesn't distract and is "good enough".

Music is just more complex than people realize, but then again, what is "popular" today tends to be regurgitated ideas, overly processed, autotuned, overly compressed drivel. Put your XM radio on 74 if you want to hear real music without the processing and automatic error correction.

Re:wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32320606)

"Soul" is the minor imperfections that give music character

You could hear the same piece of music played by two different musicians, played very close to perfection, yet they'd be easily distinguishable as very different - much more different than the few minor imperfections that are there.

"Soul" in music is in the playing style and the expression of emotion by means of timing, dynamics and 'coloring' of the sound. Just throwing in random imperfections does not make for soul.

Re:wow (1)

dintech (998802) | more than 4 years ago | (#32320692)

I would go a bit further and say that there is something else than can be explained as "soul". All music evokes a flowing change of emotions from one phrase to the next. How those emotions are felt, experienced and anticipated by the player also dictates how subsequent notes are articulated and played. This also is different from musician to musician and depending on mood, it could be different each time the piece is played.

Mood and emotion are of course current shortcomings of robots so it's playing will be rigid unless you can fake it in some way. As an example you could have a highly skilled pianist play a classical piece using a MIDI keyboard and a robot pianist plays it back verbatim.

Re:wow (1)

Pharmboy (216950) | more than 4 years ago | (#32321406)

My explanation was very mechanical as well, explaining the 'physical' differences that can be quantified, but you are correct that emotion is what causes these variations, and emotion is the soul. The variations are only the outcome. Robots will be able to COPY a passionate performance, but never create one, and even then there are nuances that are difficult to capture, kind of like what you miss when you switch from vinyl to CD. Yes, you get clarity and accuracy but at the loss of dynamic range and tones that only analog can capture.

Re:wow (1)

Paradigma11 (645246) | more than 4 years ago | (#32320832)

So it will take 5-10 years to develop an algorithm that achieves this in a way that humans wont be able to distinguish the accoustic performance of a robot and human in a double blind experiment. It will also take forever for people to accept this.

Re:wow (1)

Pharmboy (216950) | more than 4 years ago | (#32321372)

Yea, just like we will have voice recognition software for everything in 5 to 10 years, 10 years ago. Getting it 90% right is easy, getting that last 10% that really makes a difference is exponentially difficult to a trained ear.

Re:wow (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 4 years ago | (#32321938)

I thought the robot was using vibrato. With drumming, more than messing with the timing I'd simply modify the dynamics as you say, and also the pitch of the note to correspond to the dynamics. I was listening to Darwin Deez recently and even though he obviously uses a drum machine, it sounds okay simply using slightly different pitches for the snare each time.

As someone who both plays instruments and has had a lot of fun in the past trying to simulate human imperfection in FPS bots in the past, I think it would be perfectly possible to make a robot that has its own style simply by putting in a few random variables. People used to think my bots were doing some advanced behaviour that I had never programmed in there simply because I had a lot of randomised behaviour, so often they'd do something that appeared quite intelligent but was really just random. Not that they had no intelligence at all, they had some really cool features, but just I knew some of the behaviours that people were describing were coincidences.

The point is that if you give the robot a good grounding in the basics and then randomise a bunch of things like vibrato (and even have them vary things slightly further over the performance), then if you play a human player (say one who's pretty good, but not good enough to have a well known "sound") and the robot player side by side, a lot of people aren't going to be able to tell the difference. They might even say how great some of the things the robot was doing sounded! I think it's a little silly to assume that something like this cannot be done via algorithms.

I'm not a professional musician or anything, but I did drum for a band for about a year, and I've played the guitar for much longer (started doing drums because the rest of my friends in the band all played guitar too and didn't really show any ability on the drums, whereas I picked things up pretty quickly) :)

Re:wow (1)

ldobehardcore (1738858) | more than 4 years ago | (#32320038)

As a Musican as are many of the replies, I gotta say, they're all accurate in my opinion. I suppose the way I could describe "Soul" in music is to say: It's the combination of the individual player's interpretation of the written music, and how it sounds in their mind when they read it, with the essentially random, or psuedorandom patterns of imperfections introduced by the human body. It's a mixture of mental interpretation, along with the physical randomness and individuality inherent in the human body. Soul is a phenomenon of perception in my mind, and is not too different from personality in general. I would think that when a system gets sufficiently complex, "soul" would essentially be an emergent phenomenon. A complex system requires a complex understanding in the human mind, and when a person connects deeply through understanding, they tend to see "soul" At least, that's my observation and opinion.

Re:wow (1)

Devout_IPUite (1284636) | more than 4 years ago | (#32320144)

I think the violinist robot has plenty of issues other than needing to fake itself. For one it holds the violin funny which means it can't change positions, can't hold it's bow so it has a giant blocky handle to compensate, cheats on vibrato by using the fact that it has metal fingers so that it can't press and decompress the strings instead of rolling the fingertip, and the bowing sounds kinda rough.

Re:wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32321236)

People are as easily impressed with animatronics as they were almost two centuries ago.

http://io9.com/5053731/historys-greatest-robot-hoaxes

One problem (4, Funny)

Pharmboy (216950) | more than 4 years ago | (#32317812)

There was only one problem, while the Toyota robot performed quite well, they couldn't get him to stop....

Re:One problem (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 4 years ago | (#32317886)

Great, robots are vulnerable to solar flares too?

Re:One problem (1)

mestar (121800) | more than 4 years ago | (#32318560)

Was he playing faster and faster?

Re:One problem (1)

Undead Waffle (1447615) | more than 4 years ago | (#32320306)

Was he playing faster and faster?

If only they had painted him black he could have joined a metal band.

So it begins (1)

u64 (1450711) | more than 4 years ago | (#32320326)

Wont be long now before Toyota renames to Skynet.

Or whatever it's called it in Animatrix. Who knew both problems could have
been easily avoided with a simple working Stop command.
Matrix and Terminator and movies could have been so much shorter,

Humans "Stop!"
Toyota Kill-All-The-Humans Robot "Stop completed."

Re:One problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32320646)

I think you're confusing bipedals for brake pedals.

Re:One problem (1)

Sporkinum (655143) | more than 4 years ago | (#32321912)

When it gets the accelerator stuck, it plays "When the Devil Went Down to Georgia" on a golden violin in robot hell.

OK, not bad for hardware.... (1)

novar21 (1694492) | more than 4 years ago | (#32317870)

Over all the robot has some nice dexterity, but some real world strength and AI demos would go a lot farther. I am sure that this was a future or forward thinking technology. And music is a nice example of dexterity for the unit. But I would like to see an AI and voice recognition unit demoed to be really awed or inspired. But maybe I am rushing technology. I tend to demo complete cases and not partial. Maybe they are trying for more funding of this project. Or maybe its a lame attempt to portray forward thinking views to garner positive publicity.

Re:OK, not bad for hardware.... (1)

Turzyx (1462339) | more than 4 years ago | (#32317970)

For a robot with limbs specifically to play this instrument, with programming to match, it is actually quite poor. It might be beyond the realms of the average robotics graduate, but from the worlds biggest car maker, I would expect much better. Very little progress since 2007. Clearly a PR stunt; I'm disappointed.

Shareholders (-1, Flamebait)

eggman9713 (714915) | more than 4 years ago | (#32317876)

I'm sure Toyota's shareholders are very pleased that their investment is being squandered on stuff like this when they could be solving their safety issues that could potentially bankrupt the company and in turn the shareholders.

Re:Shareholders (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32317940)

I'm sure they are, in fact, pleased with their investment in "stuff like this." In Japan, they don't think one quarter ahead, they think twenty years ahead.

That is how they beat us.

Re:Shareholders (1)

Pharmboy (216950) | more than 4 years ago | (#32318920)

That is actually a very good point. The Japanese industrial complex began its fixation with robotics in the 70s with auto manufacturing, and they have invested more resources than anyone, even the USA. While we lead in microchips and general purpose computing, Japanese corporations have been doing great things with that technology + servo motors and software. And as you state, these same companies have very long term outlooks about robotics.

It is easy to say that robots will play an important part of our future. It is difficult to say with certainty what those roles will be, but it is meaningless to hazard a guess if they are not developed to perform a variety of general tasks. Several Japanese companies get this, and have earned the lead they have in the industry.

Re:Shareholders (3, Insightful)

Pharmboy (216950) | more than 4 years ago | (#32317948)

I'm sure Toyota's shareholders are very pleased that their investment is being squandered on stuff like this when they could be solving their safety issues that could potentially bankrupt the company and in turn the shareholders.

So they should instantly cancel all programs that they have been investing in for decades (with the costs associated with cancelling them) until they fix the brake problem? You do realize that Toyota has more than 12 employees and can do more than one thing at a time, right?

Re:Shareholders (2, Informative)

tibit (1762298) | more than 4 years ago | (#32318326)

Methinks big Japanese corporations are legally obligated to use a small part of their budget (say 1%?) for humanitarian purposes. Toyota may have many robotic divisions, but the one I'm familiar with is the Partner Robot Division, and there's an Assistance group there IIRC. It's what you think it is: assistance robots, to help in the care of elderly and disabled. The violin thing is just PR and probably was done by a couple guys who thought "hey, we can do *that*", and got green-lighted. It all comes from that same division.

Toyota has an annual one day employee festival at their combined ECU electronics/robotics plant -- a former site, IIRC, of a Denso plant. It's on the outskirts of Toyota-Shi. That's when they actually open the gates to the public. If you can figure out when the festival is, you can just go there and see the demo of the violin robot. The spot where they demo it used to be literally a hole in the plywood wall to their temporary robot development floor. Last year they moved the division to a big new building, and surely they give the demos there. The demo was a multi-channel motion playback preceded by running the alignment procedure. AFAICT, they did use some force-feedback controllers, but those were just that -- controllers being fed a pre-set motion reference. Not very high tech, although definitely they had very nicely done mechanicals.

Re:Shareholders (3, Informative)

Scrameustache (459504) | more than 4 years ago | (#32320136)

Methinks big Japanese corporations are legally obligated to use a small part of their budget (say 1%?) for humanitarian purposes. Toyota may have many robotic divisions, but the one I'm familiar with is the Partner Robot Division, and there's an Assistance group there IIRC. It's what you think it is: assistance robots, to help in the care of elderly and disabled. The violin thing is just PR and probably was done by a couple guys who thought "hey, we can do *that*", and got green-lighted. It all comes from that same division.

The Japanese government has an official policy of furthering the development of humanoid robots [meti.go.jp] .

Every industrial giant in japan has invested in accordance with that policy (there's tax credits IIRC), and the trend that I observe is that they all decided to concentrate on one aspect. Honda concentrated on the legs, Toyota on the hands, others are working at facial expressions, etc.

I gave a link in an earlier reply to Toyota's robot page, you can see they had a wheeled robot with nimble fingers back when honda had a walking robot with claw hands. They're competing against each other on details but cooperating on the bigger picture: Japanese domination of the humanoid robot market.

Re:Shareholders (4, Funny)

binarylarry (1338699) | more than 4 years ago | (#32317996)

Awww, I bet if we ask nicely they could have the robot play the world's smallest violin.

Re:Shareholders (1)

eggman9713 (714915) | more than 4 years ago | (#32318102)

Yeow, what is wrong with me? I definitely deserved that flamebait smackdown. I guess being hungry makes it hard to keep my mouth shut. My apologies for being a clod.

Re:Shareholders (1)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 4 years ago | (#32318198)

Rules of Slashdot trolling #262:

Never apologize for your trolls. Shut up and take the downmod or defend your troll to the death.

Re:Shareholders (1)

Pharmboy (216950) | more than 4 years ago | (#32318424)

If you don't get modded as flamebait at least twice a year, you aren't participating properly ;) We all do that from time to time. What I really respect is the fact that you admit that you simply put your foot in your mouth. Anyone who doesn't do that from time to time is either lying, or they just never take their foot out.

Re:Shareholders (1)

Sir_Lewk (967686) | more than 4 years ago | (#32318108)

Yeah really. Historically, active and creative R&D departments have always done nothing but harm to companies. Right.

Let's see some real progress here (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32317878)

Mix all that Japanese robotics know-how with outer skins from the likes of RealDoll [realdoll.com] (NSFW) and BoyToy [boytoydolls.com] (NSFW). Given all the pornographic material available from Japan, it's only a matter of time.

Where's my cat-girl sex slave [wikipedia.org] ? (NSFW)

But what is it? Animatronics? (3, Interesting)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 4 years ago | (#32317924)

That robots can do very gentle moves is already known and not really that revolutionary. We have had machines that produce complex or fragile products for a long time.

What a robot/android needs to be capable of is to do these actions on its own, in the right circumstance and adjusted to the environment.

So, can this robot be programmed to perform an X amount of moves that result in a musical performance (an animatronic) or can it be fed a piece of music and then play it on its own? Can it be told to go to room X and perform for patient Y the music that patient requests?

Animatronics have long been capable of producing very life like results, but nobody is about to suggest that Jim Henson/ILM are the future of robots/androids.

Yes, for a while these kind of performances served a purpose as it was very hard for early robotics to produce gentle movements. But we have solved the problem of the robot arm not crushing a human being, the AI element is what is lacking. We have the capacity to have a robot pick up an egg, but no robot so far can do it on its own so far.

Nice performance, but I like to know how much of it is a robot, and how much a animatronic. Anyone got the answer?

Re:But what is it? Animatronics? (1)

newcastlejon (1483695) | more than 4 years ago | (#32318146)

Yes, for a while these kind of performances served a purpose as it was very hard for early robotics to produce gentle movements. But we have solved the problem of the robot arm not crushing a human being, the AI element is what is lacking. We have the capacity to have a robot pick up an egg, but no robot so far can do it on its own so far.

Unfortunately, producing synthetic equivalents to bone, muscle and nerve are trivial compared to reproducing in silico the arrangements of the latter that have given rise to vision, spatial acuity and object recognition etc. Humans are the only animals that can play the violin (well) so you're left with the choice of making something dumb that can only play the violin or something roughly as smart as we are that can do many other useful things (perhaps even think?). We're talking about recreating a few hundred millions years of wetware in hardware. Arms and fingers aren't hard when you have a knowledge of mechanics - we've been building them for a few centuries I'd bet, even if they were only toys. We've only been doing anything with AI for a few decades.

At the end of the day, a brain is a lot more complicated than a few big bundles of anonymous muscle cells. Give it time, they'll have your robot butler soon. Real soon.

Re:But what is it? Animatronics? (1)

Sir_Lewk (967686) | more than 4 years ago | (#32318172)

So, can this robot be programmed to perform an X amount of moves that result in a musical performance (an animatronic) or can it be fed a piece of music and then play it on its own? Can it be told to go to room X and perform for patient Y the music that patient requests?

This is exactly what I want to know. How exactly would this compare to a player piano [wikipedia.org] ? Exactly how abstract can the input to this robot be?

Re:But what is it? Animatronics? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32318794)

I'd imagine the input could be fairly abstract.
Consider the following...

The robot's left hand is permanently fixed to the violin neck. So it only plays in what violin players call 'first position'. You can play all the notes, but only have an octave or so of range. For a robot, all they need to do is tell it which finger to press on which string. They could even adjust the spaces between the fingers, so that they always fell in the correct place. (It's the same position for each string). This would remove the need to move the fingers up or down the neck, as they could stay fixed in one axis, and still have a range of 20 notes. It's also perhaps why the robot plays with no vibrato at all, as that would require the fingers to move in pitch.

The bowing, and movement of the left hand in the other axis is not too hard. As long as the bow is resting on the strings with roughly the right force it should work, though the musical interpretation will be a little mechanical.

So, yes, you could have a midi file playing violin robot today, as long as you don't mind the limited pitch range and expression.

Re:But what is it? Animatronics? (1)

OrangeCatholic (1495411) | more than 4 years ago | (#32319680)

>So, yes, you could have a midi file playing violin robot today

And yet judging from the fact that it took them 3 years to go from one song to the next, they don't. I have a feeling the innards (code) are highly specialized to each song. When they can generalize it to the point of dropping in a midi file - even with a few days of customization - then you can call it an engineered system. 3 years per song is too much like Disneyworld, an art project basically.

Re:But what is it? Animatronics? (1)

Scrameustache (459504) | more than 4 years ago | (#32320160)

What a robot/android needs to be capable of is to do these actions on its own, in the right circumstance

There is no universally agreed upon definition of robot. By all accounts, a remote-controlled device of any shape is called a robot, and devices that only perform preprogrammed moves at an assembly lines are called robots.

We all WANT autonomous, aware robots, but devices don't need to be autonomous to be robots. Granted, this ambiguity of language is inconvenient, but ignoring it isn't going to make it go away.

Virtuoso (1)

skegg (666571) | more than 4 years ago | (#32318076)

Kind of reminds me of ST:Voyager episode Virtuoso [imdb.com] .

clapping to the robot (3, Insightful)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 4 years ago | (#32318080)

The robot was playing the violin and the crowd was clapping. The crowd was wowing and cheering, but the player did not understand or even know about this.

Question: was the robot just performing pre-programmed moves, was it really playing as if from notes and did it rely on its hearing to compensate for the sound at all?

Re:clapping to the robot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32318134)

I thought the clapping was interesting, as a human player would respond and let them clap in time. The robot ignored them, so the clapping along was out of time.

I don't think it would be absolutely necessary for the robot to hear the violin to play it. As long as the bow angle and pressure is near enough, then the violin would sound fairly cleanly. 19th century musical automatons used wheels covered in felt and rosin, and had no feedback at all. There is one nasty scrape at about 15 seconds in, but overall the bowing is consistent, much more so than a human player, who would put a bit more variation into it.

Re:clapping to the robot (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 4 years ago | (#32318222)

What you are saying is true, it would be enough to just measure the pressure, apply correct movements etc., but that's not actually playing a violin, is it? :) If you don't have a feedback in terms of hearing, then you don't hear what you are playing, how do you really know that it sounds good? By using pressure alone, it does not tell you that the instrument is really actually truly producing the sounds that you expect. After all, it could be a chair that the robot was playing with the bow, as long as the pressure was right, the robot would 'believe' that the sound was OK, but do you know how bad a chair sounds when scratched with a violin bow?

Re:clapping to the robot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32318688)

I think what they were trying to do here was to get it to play the violin at all, rather than worrying too much about how well.
It shows people that the household Toyota "Partner Robot" has finesse, and is not going to accidentally remove someone's head.

It would certainly be a more interesting demonstration if the robot listens to the sound it is making. It's certainly not beyond real time sound analysis to do this. They could detect too loud second harmonics, and tell it to bow with less force. I think the robot's left hand is permanently attached to the violin neck in the video, which removes most of the difficulty in playing in tune.

I'd like to see what would happen if the violin strings were detuned.

Re:clapping to the robot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32319784)

Even if it doesn't listen and respond to the audience, isn't that a relatively simple software problem to solve? The hardest part (playing the instrument) is already done.

Re:clapping to the robot (1)

stephanruby (542433) | more than 4 years ago | (#32320220)

Even if it doesn't listen and respond to the audience, isn't that a relatively simple software problem to solve?

That depends. Do you want the creators to reprogram that robot? Or do you want that robot to be able to reprogram itself?

Re:clapping to the robot (2, Interesting)

Phroggy (441) | more than 4 years ago | (#32319964)

The robot was playing the violin and the crowd was clapping. The crowd was wowing and cheering, but the player did not understand or even know about this.

If I were there, I would have applauded - not for the benefit of the robot, but for its creators, who have demonstrated a remarkable achievement. Clearly, there's more work to do, but I am very impressed with what they've accomplished so far.

Question: was the robot just performing pre-programmed moves, was it really playing as if from notes and did it rely on its hearing to compensate for the sound at all?

Those are good questions.

Re:clapping to the robot (1)

Scrameustache (459504) | more than 4 years ago | (#32320192)

Question: was the robot just performing pre-programmed moves

Question: Why would not assume that mundane explanation unless given extraordinary proof of the contrary?

Re:clapping to the robot (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 4 years ago | (#32321118)

well, they already built a robot, could as well teach it to play from notes, otherwise it would be a very laborious task to get it to play a different piece of music. The hearing part is not extremely difficult, sample the produced sound and compare to an expected sound wave that must be produced from the notes.

no neck movement, special brackets and finger pads (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32318132)

On ok demo but some things are a bit telling. The robot needed some sort of special bracket on the back of the neck as well as special finger pads so it fails on proving how incredibly multipurpose/ general purposed it is.

Secondly it failed to manage any movement up and down the neck - which introduces a lot more physical complexity.

There (3, Funny)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 4 years ago | (#32318136)

There was only one small glitch during the rehearsal when they couldn't get it to stop playing.

Big deal... (2, Funny)

trailerparkcassanova (469342) | more than 4 years ago | (#32318162)

Can it safely bring to a stop a runaway Lexus?

Honda light years ahead (2, Funny)

2phar (137027) | more than 4 years ago | (#32318212)

That's all very impressive, but let's see a Toyota fall down the stairs [youtube.com]

Re:Honda light years ahead (1)

trailerparkcassanova (469342) | more than 4 years ago | (#32318260)

Yep,that was the first robot to do a Gerald Ford (R.I.P.) impersonation.

Re:Honda light years ahead (1)

OrangeCatholic (1495411) | more than 4 years ago | (#32319698)

Maybe it should have been looking where it was going.

Been done before (1)

uofitorn (804157) | more than 4 years ago | (#32318680)

That's nothing new. I saw an entire robot orchestra at House on the Rock 18 years ago!

http://www.flickr.com/photos/decibelle/375548979/ [flickr.com]

What? You mean they weren't really playing those instruments?

I hate to say it but... (0)

rastoboy29 (807168) | more than 4 years ago | (#32319050)

Imagine begging a thing that looks like this for your life.

Robot soldiers are an inevitability, and they will not be a joke like in the later Star Wars movies.

It's going to suck real bad.

Flight of the Bumblebee (4, Interesting)

purduephotog (218304) | more than 4 years ago | (#32319068)

When it can play Flight of the Bumblebee, better than Itzhak Perlman and/or Joshua Bell, then I'll take notice...

Or better still, when it can have new music 'downloaded' into it and interpreted based upon previous styles (such as baroque style)...

Re:Flight of the Bumblebee (1)

howzit (1667699) | more than 4 years ago | (#32321094)

Why does it's left hand stay at the same place? Why doesn't it play a tune that requires pressing strings further up the neck of the violin? This is the violin version of 'chopsticks!'

Did it start playing faster? (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32319242)

Did it start playing faster and faster, out of control with no way to stop it?

Why make a machine do what you'd like to do? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32320140)

A great but empty technological achievement.

But I want machines to do the work I hate - the drudgery, the boring stuff. Playing music is a gift, it's fun, it's beautiful. Why bother having a machine do that when it cannot feel the joy? No point at all.

I am a musician with an engineering degree. The latter was a complete waste of time, lo many years ago.

I was just at the Shanghai Expo last week (1)

xyrw (609810) | more than 4 years ago | (#32320236)

And I saw the Japan Pavillion, which is where the robot performs. The pavillion is divided into three sections. The first shows the clean technologies that are being used in Japan. The second is where the robot performs, along with some other technology demos. The third is a Chinese opera performance about the crested ibis, an endangered bird whose numbers have increased as a result of a joint breeding programme by China and Japan.

The expo will be on until 31 Oct, by the way. But beware the crowds.

Re:I was just at the Shanghai Expo last week (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32321558)

The crested Ibis must be one of the stupidest animals in existence after the Giant Panda.

When the reintroduction was started in Japan I was supporting it, but the damn bastards aren't able to keep themselves alive, are eaten by other endangered species, destroy their own eggs and otherwise make it clear they want to win a Darwin award.

I say send them all to KFC.

Ahh so that's what they've been up to... (1)

NateTech (50881) | more than 4 years ago | (#32321056)

... instead of QA'ing their car's control systems!

Sorry (1)

danhaas (891773) | more than 4 years ago | (#32321336)

I'm just sorry for the guy inside that strange suit.
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