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A Guitar Robot That Can Really Shred

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the just-feed-it-carrots dept.

Robotics 88

botPatrol writes "As reported today by Create Digital Music and the Wired blog, PAM (Polytangent Automatic (multi-)Monochord) is a robot who has discovered a love for vintage Metallica riffs, and can churn them out non-stop at superhuman speeds without ever requiring anger management therapy or treatment for drug abuse." (Read more, below.)"Her younger sister MARIE, a road-ready robotic ensemble of wind and string instruments, promises to be even more of a musical badass. STEIM (STudio for Electro Instrumental Music), a leading international research center for the development of new musical instruments, will play host to MARIE this spring, and has posted a story on the revolutionary nature of this new musical robot. PAM and MARIE creators Expressive Machines Musical Instruments (EMMI) are calling on metal- and tech-heads alike to push their Kickstarter fund raising campaign over the top in its final few days, to fund the MARIE prototype and "help thwart the imminent robot vs. human wars by demonstrating how fun, cool, and sonically interesting it can be when humans and robots combine their powers for good.""

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And... (5, Funny)

TheL0ser (1955440) | more than 3 years ago | (#34715808)

Lawsuit from Metallica coming in 3...2...1...

Re:And... (1)

tudorl (841940) | more than 3 years ago | (#34716030)

Heheh ,,, good luck figuring out how to start a trial on a machine :D

Re:And... (1)

Crudely_Indecent (739699) | more than 3 years ago | (#34726826)

haha, or the programmer....oh wait, they can do that.

Re:And... (3, Funny)

pushing-robot (1037830) | more than 3 years ago | (#34716060)

Robot... BAD!

Re:And... (2)

EdIII (1114411) | more than 3 years ago | (#34718376)

Robot... is bad. I watched the video here ... and... it blows. Seriously. It fucking blows.

Sounded nothing like Metallica to me, and it did not even sound like a person playing metal. I listened for a full minute and it just became painful to listen to. If that robot is attempting to play a guitar and reproduce something that a human made, sorry, it failed.

Is it just me? Are there musicians out there that can tell me it was making some kind of music? Some sort of artistic industrial sound that I am just not appreciating?

Re:And... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34718606)

It was sort-of playing Cliff Burton's bass solo: "Anesthesia - Pulling Teeth" from the "Kill 'Em All" album. I say sort of in that it started off sort of right, but with many of wrong notes. It then proceeded to have nothing at all to do with the original song.

Despite it being fairly easy to get most of Cliff's sound (neck pickup, tone knob set all the way to one end, and using a fuzzbox for distortion), they failed there too. We'll ignore the missing whammy and wah.

Oh, and it naturally lacked any sort of feeling or emotion, or anything redeeming. You might as well attempt to play metal with the 1 bit PC speaker using sound commands in the old BASIC for DOS.

It was shit.

Re:And... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34723386)

Grind core metal guitarist here. Yup, it's a bit lame. It's got the mechanics of being able to finger the right notes, but is lacking in a few major places. For a start, the guitar. I can't see an 'actual' guitar here, you know, one made from a nice single piece of lovely sounding quality wood. It would also sound a lot better if the miked up a JCM900 4x12 cab

The guitar sounds like it's been run through a cheap distortion pedal directly into the line in on a hifi. The problem is that you can't get a good crunchy sound (i.e. it's over compressed) from a direct line + distortion pedal alone. You need a 3 tier approach. The first level is provided by the pickups, which for metal tend to be heavily wound (providing higher volume, but crapper sound) or active pickups (which have less winds around the magnet, but has a pre-amp built in. The result is a clean and loud sound). Next up you need to amplify and clip the sound signal via a distortion effect pedal (normally combined with a compresser and equaliser). Finally you make use of a small amount of gain in the amplifier head itself. The result pushes a little bit too much of a signal into the speaker cab, causing it to crunch nicely :)

The plectrum in the video just waggles left and right. Imho, this is going to be the hardest thing to get right. When picking, you have a lot of nuisances generated by the angle of attack of the pick, the picking direction, etc. One of the most common uses of the pick is to force the string to resonate in 1/2, 1/3 or 1/4 frequencies (aka artificial harmonics). These are the metal guitarists best friends, and are used everywhere to add expression! The robot can't generate this sound (because it can't move up and down the neck, and can't generate the correct angle of attack). Speaking of which, if you pick the note near the bridge it gives a very 'tinny' sound. Pick the note nearer the neck and the sound is much fuller, and much warmer. The inability of this robot to pick on different points along the neck is bound to cause problems with expression.

Hammer ons and Pull offs. This robot can't do them. It's going to suck. In your average metal solo, only half to a third on the notes will actually be picked. The rest are sounded using the left (fretting hand). If you were to pick every single note, you lose tonnes and tonnes of expression. (since picked notes are typically reserved for the emphasis points within a riff).

Finally (although i could whitter on about it for hours), the robot does appear to be doing palm muting (the damper dropping down next to the plectrum) which provides the short rhythmic notes. Problem is that it's a little bit more involved than simply damping all of the strings. On a guitar you get a graduated level of control over the mute. You can fully palm mute all strings, or you can partially do it. You can (if you are good!), mute say, just the lowest 3 strings, leaving the top 3 open. This gives you short rhythmic low notes, and long resonating high notes at the same time.

Re:And... (1)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 3 years ago | (#34718618)

Don't you think that your opinion is a bit biased? After all, there are those allegations that you pushed a kid down the stairs...

Re:And... (1)

antdude (79039) | more than 3 years ago | (#34720096)

"Bad Robot [] !" --kids/children

Re:And... (0)

gman003 (1693318) | more than 3 years ago | (#34717136)

I didn't actually hear any "Metallica" music. Sure, it was definitely Metallica-like, but you can't sue for "playing music sorta-kinda similar to the stuff we play".

About the only reference to Metallica was in the song's title: in the recorded version of "Anesthesia - Pulling Teeth" (from the "Kill 'em All" album), Cliff Burton said the words "bass solo, take one"; this is homaged by the song's title, "PAM Solo, Take One". There is literally nothing remotely lawsuit-capable in this.

Hell, even if PAM was to start playing "Enter Sandman", they couldn't sue. You can't sue someone for playing a cover version of your song, something Metallica knows full well (they released a 2-disc compilation of covers, and often play covers in concert).

Can we officially cut the band a break? They filed one lawsuit that was hypocritical and rather stupid, but that was years ago. Since then, they haven't really done anything worthy of hate. Well, maybe "St. Anger", but they apologized for that one.

Re:And... (1)

equex (747231) | more than 3 years ago | (#34720758)

None of that was actually any Metallica riffs. TFA also said 'Metallica-style riffs'.

almost there (1)

MrKaos (858439) | more than 3 years ago | (#34715916)

all it needs now is a massive EGO module and it will be just like a real shredder guitarist ;)

Re:almost there (1)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 3 years ago | (#34716190)

Hettfield ain't so tough. If the robot wanted to be like that bed-wetting emo-kid James Hettfield, it could beg for mercy* and then leak oil all over itself after playing Mama Said.

* The most pathetic Metallica concert was in '99 at the Coors(now Cricket) amphitheater near San Diego. Hettfield was forgetting rather obvious lyrics to his songs, and the crowd was chucking plastic beer bottles at him, actually sticking Hettfield in the face as he was singing(er, trying to sing) Wherever I may roam. He then begged the audience to go easy and said that they band had low self-esteem. But, the booing and the bottles kept coming. When the band revealed that they were going to dedicate the latter half of their set to do an acoustic set of many popular songs, the crowd booed relentlessly and was on the verge of rioting. Four Horsemen was desecrated, and Metallica had to pay.

Re:almost there (2)

itsenrique (846636) | more than 3 years ago | (#34716228)

Bender: "With my mighty robot powers, I can get sick of things much quicker than you humans."

The soul of the machine proves.... (4, Funny)

GaryOlson (737642) | more than 3 years ago | (#34715940)

....Metallica's music was always rather repetitive and robotic.
Show me a robot which can play classical violin without becoming arrogant and whiny; that would be an achievement.

Re:The soul of the machine proves.... (1)

itsenrique (846636) | more than 3 years ago | (#34716248)

Agreed. Wheres the Clapton, Hendrix, or SRV-bots?

Re:The soul of the machine proves.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34716446)

How's about a Buckethead bot?
These machines can't handle more than 1 string!
  WTF this is news?

and why the hell is the captcha "condom" ?!?

Skynet's captcha (1)

Tetsujin (103070) | more than 3 years ago | (#34723550)

and why the hell is the captcha "condom" ?!?

Skynet determined that you're going to father a child who will one day play an important part in the resistance: but as part of an experimental new program of time-travel meddling, rather than sending back a big, obvious threat like an assassination cyborg to kill you, they're trying to subliminally suggest that you use contraception.

Re:The soul of the machine proves.... (2)

pejyel (1275304) | more than 3 years ago | (#34717168)

Show me a robot which can play classical violin without becoming arrogant and whiny; that would be an achievement.

Here you go, done already 3 years ago.
Toyota violin-playing robot, 2007 []
Does that prove that classical music authors were rather repetitive and robotic?

Re:The soul of the machine proves.... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34717622)

God, that was awful. That robot is no Itzhak Perlman.

Re:The soul of the machine proves.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34719354)

Hitting the notes is only part of making good music. That example was terrible.

Obligatory... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34716014)

I for one welcome our musically-skilled robotic overlords.

Superhuman speed? (4, Insightful)

Zedrick (764028) | more than 3 years ago | (#34716058)

The videos doesn't show any superhuman speed. I (a half-decent guitarist) can play metallica songs faster, and a lot better/cleaner (the robot doesn't seem to be able to mute the stings for example).

Wake me up when the build a robot that can compete with Yngwie Malmsteen.

Re:Superhuman speed? (0)

el americano (799629) | more than 3 years ago | (#34716270)

I am likewise disappointed. The music sounds like crap. The only point of reproducing music mechanically, rather then electronically, is for the novelty, but I don't see this guitar player impressing anyone.

School project level.

Re:Superhuman speed? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34716390)

Not only does it not compete with Yngwie and the fret wanking school of thought (teh more notez == teh more rawk), from the video how it could do any string bends or vibrato.

Wake me up when they build a robot that can compete with B. B. King.

Re:Superhuman speed? (3, Interesting)

mugnyte (203225) | more than 3 years ago | (#34716404)

Even worse - it's missing more than half the sound qualities of true guitar playing:
  string thickness
  string/fret choice for note
  string bends
  finger slide noises
  pluck style (pick, hammer-on, pull-off, etc)
  pluck position on string
  muting / hf filter
  high-order harmonic generation / lf filter
  'whammy' bar
  string-to-string interaction
  pickup choice, switching
  pedalboard activity

Synth guitar emulations can guess on a lot of these and inject sound changes, but really, nothing compares to a well-skilled guitarist playing a purposefully created good solo.

Re:Superhuman speed? (1)

Rary (566291) | more than 3 years ago | (#34716782)

The thing is playing a one-string guitar. It does attempt to do some virtual palm-muting, but does so poorly, as there is no substitute for a fleshy palm when muting. It does do hammer-ons and pull-offs— in fact, that's most of what it does, since it's playing riffs entirely on one string.

In short, it's a neat gimmick, but not particularly useful or revolutionary.

Re:Superhuman speed? (1)

Khyber (864651) | more than 3 years ago | (#34717386)

It's playing a two string guitar, according to the picture below the video.

Re:Superhuman speed? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34716848)

It was doing some muting in the first video.
It sounds like something is being pressed onto the strings, to simulate how a guitarist would do a palm mute.

There are some problems with it, as you can hear the strings being pulled sharp by the pressure of the muting at the beginning of the video. It doesn't sound so bad when it's done during a melodic run later on at 2:16.

What interested me was how out of tune much of the performance sounded. An electric guitarist actually has to work quite hard to keep the intonation right while using different techniques. They rarely realise they are doing it, but they do it all the same.

Re:Superhuman speed? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34719580)

^^That's what people mean by soul.

Re:Superhuman speed? (1)

beowulfcluster (603942) | more than 3 years ago | (#34720522)

Also, no vibrato, which is the thing that when tastefully done separates the musicians playing music from the flesh robots playing notes. Well, in my opinion at least.

Re:Superhuman speed? (1)

WorBlux (1751716) | more than 3 years ago | (#34722982)

It lacks attenuation. An master of his instrument and music will induce small variations in order to better blend sequences notes and harmonies together. This robot isn't even trying to do that. A robot will never do that on it's own, at best it will be able to listen to an instrument in a certain style, recursively deduce some of the rules that a master uses and implement them.

Re:Superhuman speed? (1)

jafac (1449) | more than 3 years ago | (#34728538)

dang, it's not bad for a version 1.0.

I don't think the creators are overlooking advanced or esoteric technique. One day, not too long from now (and this is long overdue) the machines are going to be playing shit that will make our eyes bug out.
And then make us yawn, and bitch and moan for upgrades.

Re:Superhuman speed? (1)

Khyber (864651) | more than 3 years ago | (#34717278)

"the robot doesn't seem to be able to mute the stings for example"

Did you even watch the beginning of the video where the palm mute pad goes up and down, demonstrating palm muting?

Now granted this isn't even close to being impressive. I can one-hand thunderstruck at about 3x the speed of Angus, cleanly, that still isn't anything.

Yngwie? Nah. Yngwie is good, but there are tons of kids nowdays that can rip him a new one. I know of a blind Japanese kid that would kick his ass left and right.

Re:Superhuman speed? (1)

Zedrick (764028) | more than 3 years ago | (#34721704)

> Did you even watch the beginning of the video where the palm mute pad goes up and down, demonstrating palm muting?

No, missed it. If it's there, it's not working.

> Yngwie? Nah. Yngwie is good, but there are tons of kids nowdays that can rip him a new one. I know of a blind Japanese kid that would kick his ass left and right.

Infidel. And you misspelled "God".

Re:Superhuman speed? (1)

Khyber (864651) | more than 3 years ago | (#34725538)

The Jap kid played Yngwie's music. Did what he did WITHOUT LOOKING.

That puts Yngwie into the amateur level, as he still has to look at the fretboard to perform his songs.

Sorry, Paul Gilbert is way better than Yngwie. Hell Michaelangelo Galilei is better.

And as I don't believe in gods, Yngwie is just a mere pissant of a human just like you and me.

Re:Superhuman speed? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34718374)

I agree, they need to put a dragon decal and a lightening bolt on it.

Good target for beer bottles. (1)

Seor Jojoba (519752) | more than 3 years ago | (#34716082)

Oh, come on. The point of doing this can only be geek joy. To say that it is a good idea to replace a musician with this is stupid. It's not about technical prowess in the end. The robot is metal (or at least comprised of it, in part). Yet it does not rock.

Re:Good target for beer bottles. (3, Insightful)

music_robot_groupie (1968182) | more than 3 years ago | (#34716222)

The point isn't to replace human performers. Look into this more and you'll find that the robots sometimes perform/interact with human musicians and dancers. The point is to explore new territory. Robots do things humans can't and vice versa. BTW, if you aren't for geek joy, why are you commenting on Slashdot?

Re:Good target for beer bottles. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34718248)

It's like a modern day equivalent of one of those old-timey player-pianos, carillons, orchestrions or whatever. Except instead of piano-rolls it uses hard disks or flash memory, and instead of polkas, waltzes, ragtime, or jazz, it plays rock. Otherwise the concept of automation of musical instrument playing by use of solenoids and similar actuators is exactly the same.

In other words, these robots are a rehash of some rather old ideas, but with application of newer technologies and tastes in music.

Entertaining? Sure. What other point would there be? But entirely new or novel? Not really.

Re:Good target for beer bottles. (1)

avtchillsboro (986655) | more than 3 years ago | (#34718170)

Target for beer bottles? yep. I don't play (but wish I did), but I have a lot of friends who do. Blues, mostly. One of my local 'blues buddies' has a Grammy or two; a WC Handy Award; and was in the Blues Brothers 2000 movie (no shit!) Having met--and known--and spent a lot of time listening--in person--to guys that played in bands w/ Howling Wolf, Magic Sam, and Muddy Waters ...I would trade you all the 'metal' that ever been produced (and rap too, for that matter) for one night sitting around listening to my'buds

they invented yngvie? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34716130)

yngvie malmSTEIM sounds like a robot to me!

Well (5, Insightful)

Anrego (830717) | more than 3 years ago | (#34716188)

This thing sounds more synthetic than a lot of synthesizers.

Hitting the notes is only part of the guitar playing equation. Technique is just as important. Even implementing basic string muting would make a huge difference here.

Still cool though :)

Re:Well (1)

BobMcD (601576) | more than 3 years ago | (#34716292)

This thing sounds more synthetic than a lot of synthesizers.

This is what I came to say - but to me 'more synthetic' could be replaced with 'worse'. For something that can 'really shred', I still think even a first-year student could out play it. And that's bizarre to me. It hits every note, I'd guess, but it sounds like crap. Why? Can we see from the video what's wrong with the technique?

Even implementing basic string muting would make a huge difference here.

Going to google this, but - 'wha?'

Re:Well (2)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 3 years ago | (#34716410)

Going to google this, but - 'wha?'

Your parent is referring to "palm muting," which gives metal chords that distinctive "crunching" or "chugging" sound. It's done by resting the palm of the picking hand over the strings right where the bridge is(so that the strings resonate some instead of being totally muted dead). It may also be used for soloing, good examples being solos in which the palm pressure is gradually released so that the effect is of the solo fading seamlessly from staccato to legato.

I really don't know why the robot cannot palm-mute, it wouldn't have been that difficult to add a palm-muting mechanism.

/metalhead. GG Allin lives!

Re:Well (1)

Rary (566291) | more than 3 years ago | (#34716852)

I really don't know why the robot cannot palm-mute, it wouldn't have been that difficult to add a palm-muting mechanism.

It does do some palm-muting (sort of). Just behind the "pick hand" there is a little thingy that attempts to mute the strings. The problem is that it's not fleshy, like a palm, and therefore does a really piss poor job of muting the strings the way a palm would. It also probably only has two settings, muted and not muted, whereas with a real palm you can go from heavily muted, for a really crunchy sound, to just slightly muted.

It would also help if it could play a guitar with more than one string. Or if it could cover more than just half the neck. It really is quite limited.

Re:Well (1)

hitmark (640295) | more than 3 years ago | (#34720284)

Refinements are likely to be made, given time.

Re:Well (1)

Pharmboy (216950) | more than 3 years ago | (#34717292)

Ditto on sounding like a first year metal head. Very interesting, but easy to tell by sound only that it wasn't a virtuoso, or even a journeyman guitarist. Impressive at a technical level, no doubt, but not so much on a sonic level.

Part of what it is missing is natural variation. It's playing is perfectly fine in terms of mathematics, hit note at 0.0 bar, sustain 1.27 seconds, etc. but music is much more complex than that. In terms of humans, what makes a "very good" musician and a "great" musician isn't math, it is taking notes that are not exactly at 0.0 bar, and aren't exactly perfect in any time, but flow together as a balanced unit. The robot had no flow, no continuity, no "soul" (yes, cliche but accurate). This is the same thing as a new guitarists, where they focus on playing a individual notes in a linear fashion, whereas an experienced musician is not thinking about any single note at all, but instead the entire piece, and the notes simply flow almost subconsciously.

Not sure I can explain it very well, but after 40 years of playing, I am confident I can show it with a guitar. On the plus side, it won't be taking any of our jobs any time soon. ;)

Re:Well (1)

hitmark (640295) | more than 3 years ago | (#34720296)

What will be interesting is to, 10 years down the road when this have gotten some revisions done, set up the musical equivalent of a turing test.

Re:Well (1)

Pharmboy (216950) | more than 3 years ago | (#34720946)

I will be shocked if that doesn't happen. First a computer beats a champion in chess, but can he play flamenco style well enough to fool a panel of expert guitarists? Eventually, perhaps. 10 years? Hard to say. I still don't think musicians need to worry. DJ's did more to take jobs from working bands than anything else. O

ver the last 20-30 years, it seems people would rather hear an exact copy of a song they know than a good interpretation. No where near the amount of venues with live bands that there used to be. The average lifespan of a song and/or performer has also gotten shorter as the industry cranks out manufactured "stars" like a Pez dispenser, thanks to Autotune and other techno-goodies.

These guys need... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34716562)

These guys take some of the money that they are spending on this stuff and go get laid. No seriously... Not to a bar or a date, but straightforward "I give you X dollars, you give me warm, enthusiastic sex".

    Robots are not needed to become musicians or to play musical instruments. We have millions of people who can do that already.

    Robots are needed for things that are very painstaking difficult for humans to do for extended periods of time, like microsurgury for reconnecting thousands of tiny blood vessels and nerves in the aftermath of a mass trauma event. Or being the chief diaper changer in a 1000 baby orphanage.

    Or just picking strawberries when the crops are ripe for two weeks and it's just too fu*cking hot for humans to go out and pick them for 18 hours a day.

    Or a million other things. But not playing a musical instrument. We already have Robert Fripp; we don't need a another robotic guitar player.

    These guys look like they all have too much money. They sound like they could use a few months in a Filipino whore house, getting their souls realigned.


Re:These guys need... (1)

mangu (126918) | more than 3 years ago | (#34720472)

Or just picking strawberries when the crops are ripe for two weeks and it's just too fu*cking hot for humans to go out and pick them for 18 hours a day.

Or a million other things. But not playing a musical instrument. We already have Robert Fripp; we don't need a another robotic guitar player.

There are millions of people who were born and raised in tropical lands who would be glad to work in hot weather picking strawberries if they could, we don't need another robotic fruit picker.

The future is coming, many people will be left behind. The robotic guitar player may not be much today, but neither is the robotic fruit picker. We will one day machines that will pick only fruit that's exactly ripe, same as we will have robots that play guitar better than any human could.

Re:These guys need... (1)

Thing 1 (178996) | more than 3 years ago | (#34723742)

And we will one day machines that replace words that the humans have out of their sentences.

Re:Well (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34720560)

Indeed. It's neat, certainly, but it's got about as much to do with actual guitar playing than a MIDI track of a piano piece has to do with a concert performance of the same by a skilled pianist.

I for one... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34716216)

welcome our heavy-metal-playing, made-of-heavy-metal robot overlords :-)

Re:I for one... (1)

drb226 (1938360) | more than 3 years ago | (#34716914)

welcome our heavy-metal-playing, made-of-heavy-metal robot overlords :-) beat me to the obligatory slashdot overlord-welcoming.

JFC (1)

ohiovr (1859814) | more than 3 years ago | (#34716236)

They could at least have tuned the thing! Gawd damn! My ears my ears :(

Not news (5, Interesting)

submain (856941) | more than 3 years ago | (#34716434)

This is not news. Pat Metheny has been doing this for the last two years, except with a full band of robots. I have been to his concert and I can attest it works very well. Here is an example: []

Re:Not news (1)

Rary (566291) | more than 3 years ago | (#34716928)

Wow. That's some crazy cool stuff he's doing. Thanks for the link!

Re:Not news (1)

yvanthegreat (1032262) | more than 3 years ago | (#34716954)

Yeah, I know about that. Pat also came to visit Logos foundation in Ghent, Belgium last june. That place also has more than 40 robots in an orchestra and exists a lot longer than Pat's orchestra. He liked it a lot. Thing is, Pat has a lot of programmers in his service for this project, and their goal is to make the music sound like he wants it to sound. Nothing wrong with that of course. But it's hardly fair that this project isn't new because someone else has made music with robots already.

First of all, every robot is different. Even 80 years ago, organ robots existed. Ever heard the music of Nancarrow for player piano? Kind of a robot too, but with 'punch cards'. But there's still a lot of research to do concerning string instruments, or windblowers even.

And second, it's not enough to have just one robot of every type. That's like saying "ok, we have three computers in the world now, that will be enough." (IBM chairman in the 50's?) If you want talented people to really get to know the possibilities of these robots and make new music with them, you'll need thousands. And it won't hurt to try a lot of different approaches at this point. And from what I have seen, this approach is very different from Pat Metheny's. But of course this difference might be hard to see when you're not an insider. As goes for every sort of new technology.

Re:Not news (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34717104)

There have been automatic mechanical fretted instruments around for over a hundred years.

The Encore Automatic Banjo is from around 1890. They used to be part of fairground organs. These would include violins too, which worked by spinning felt wheels on the strings. The rest of the mechanism was pretty much the same as in the article.

Captured By Robots does this (2)

NixieBunny (859050) | more than 3 years ago | (#34716532)

It's a band comprised of one guy and several robots, started because he tired of the shortcomings of human bandmates. However, the robots give him just as much (if not more) trouble.

He has a guitarist that has two necks on his guitar, one for bass and one for lead. Here they are. []

Skwisgaar Skwigelf (1)

actionbastard (1206160) | more than 3 years ago | (#34716574)

Is not impressed.

Re:Skwisgaar Skwigelf (1)

korgitser (1809018) | more than 3 years ago | (#34717678)

If it were a gmilf fembot...

I have a much better name for it (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 3 years ago | (#34716642)


I hope that's not what rock music sounded like to my father... Holy Jesus! What a racket that thing makes! Perfect for a burglar alarm though... Could even scare off stray dogs

subject (1)

Legion303 (97901) | more than 3 years ago | (#34716698)

Just think about how awesome it would sound if they tuned it.

Tone? (1)

Sean_Inconsequential (1883900) | more than 3 years ago | (#34716738)

I am not trying to flame or anything, but this would be much cooler if it sounded good (subjective, I know). It sounds kind of like they just cranked everything... kind of muddy and hard to distinguish notes. Give it a nice wood body and neck. Cool, but could be better.

point of making robots is not to make humanoids (2)

yvanthegreat (1032262) | more than 3 years ago | (#34716758)

I think some people are missing the point here.

Robot instruments are not to replace humans, but to provide an alternative approach to music. Sure, people can do lots of stuff robots won't be able to do in the near future, but robots are also capable of doing things people would find impossible. You can make a robot react to movement sensors, light, touchpads etc. It can use information from databases or the internet. Let me see a human who can do that in real time.

Humans use a technique to play an instrument that has been perfected over hundreds of years. With robots, we first have to develop the robot. Once that is done, we can try all possible options to make interesting music with it. But this includes a learning curve. It's not very fair to compare the tried and tested technique of humans with robotic instruments at this point.

As for the fact that some people think it hurts their ears: there's is more music in the world than the pop-rock-jazz-blues stuff we hear on the radio. Not that I have anything against it, but if one is serious about new ways of making music, why stick to the 1000 year old idea of using chords? And while it makes sense that humans like steady beats to play together, why not try a 3th degree math function as the rhythmical basis of your piece if you have robots to perform it, and explore from there? No, it won't sound like pop music, but that doesn't make it less interesting. Some musicians, and not the least among them, were trying to do that even a hundred years ago. I think they would have been delighted to have a musical robot to try out their ideas.

No, robots will probably never be able to play some kinds of 'humanoid' music with the same feel. But if that would be the goal of making robots, we would better stop making them. People make robots to explore new possibilities. Ok, there is the sony project to make a humanoid robots, and I guess that kind of stuff will always be there. It appeals to many people's imagination. And the less people know about technology, the more they are fascinated by this kind of robot. But the real challenge lies with exploring new ways of doing things. This goes for scientific robots as well as musical ones.

Re:point of making robots is not to make humanoids (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34718928)

What the hell are you talking about?

There are plenty of examples of machines that can play music close to the same degree as a human player a few examples:

The Piano (because, it is afterall a machine, operated by a pianist)
Mechanical Player-piano (decent one sounds okish)
Yamaha Disklavier (sounds slightly mechanical, but tolerable)
Bosendorfer Ceus (is a piece of absolute genius)
This robot clarinet at UNSW:
Those musicboxes at carnivals turn of last century
The HDD Sampler
The CD player

What do they all have in common? they all ultimately play music performed or recorded, or programmed and written by a human musician.

All I saw in this article was a bunch of mechanical musical instruments that sound really lousy with poor pitch and intonation.

People have been building music machines for hundreds of years, all that's new about this is NOTHING. It was just plain fucking lousy.

Re:point of making robots is not to make humanoids (1)

yvanthegreat (1032262) | more than 3 years ago | (#34720598)

You're confusing machines with robots. There's a difference. Although definitions may vary depending on the field we're talking about, a robot should at least be able to things on his own. Although most scientists would also agree that it should be able to make decisions.

A piano is as much a robot as a vacuum cleaner is. It's a tool you can use, nothing more.

A player-piano is indeed a primitive robot. You are right about that. Ever heard of conlon Nancarrow? One of the more interesting American composers who made music for player piano all his life. Here's a link to one of his pieces: [] But one of the disadvantages is that because of the way it's built, a player piano can't do dynamics. You can only play louder if you play more notes at the same time.

Yamaha Disklavier and such CAN be used as robots. They're machines on their own, but if you feed them real time information by using a computer with sensors and a custom made program they can indeed react to their environment. About sounding mechanical, that's an illusion. When making a piano robot, there are only two parameters that count: the the timing and the pressure you use to push down a key. compared to windblowers, this is very simple, because you won't have to modify the sound a string after it has been beaten. If a Disklavier sounds mechanical, it is because of the way the piece of music is programmed, not because of the limitations of the instrument itself. If you want it to play some music you can either program it to play exactly what it says on the score, or build in some errors, like a human player would make. Slight deviations in timing and velocity. The first way would make the music a bit mechanically. The second way can sound perfectly realistic, if you do it right. But then you have to ask yourself what the point of making robots is, if you're asking them to make the same mistakes as humans do.

Now that robot clarinet is an interesting experiment. But not finished at all. It is interesting because it shows that much more research is needed in this area. It is very impressing to do a crude version of 'flight of the bumble bee' but it only shows that the fingering mechanism is working ok. Now that part is quite comparable with a technology used by a disklavier. Not that new at all, you just need smaller electromagnets. The real challenge lies with the mouthpiece, and they're not there yet. For now, the instrument plays everything at the same volume, and I have reason to believe it won't be able to make breaks between two notes. There's certainly no articulation at all, and just that is what makes a clarinet sound real. So it's a good project, but they haven't figured it all out, just as the people who are doing this project have not figured it all out.

The "figuring out" part is a challenge for every instrument you're trying to turn into a robot. And the video you watched is the result of an earlier experiment, where they tried to emulate an electrical guitar. If read a bit further, you'll see that they're working on wind- and string instruments AND on the interaction with human players. That's still a bit more complicated than the examples you gave.

Of course they're not the first trying to make a musical robot. One of them studied in Belgium for a year (also mentioned in the article) at Logos foundation. Here's their website, it has a small introduction video on the right: [] . And here's a recent video of their current robot orchestra improvising with two human performers: []

What you will notice is that this orchestra doesn't have a string instrument. Simply because it's very complicated to make one. So what these people are trying to do is quite new indeed.

About the poor pitch and intonation you mentioned: you shouldn't think that western tuning is the only one that's right. It just sounds more right to you because that's what you've listened to your whole life. That's why you think music sounds out of tune when it doesn't follow this tuning system. But it's really dependant on the culture you grew up in. Or perhaps you're convinced a Chinese gamelan orchestra plays 'out of tune' because the players just like to terrorize their own ears?

sound mechanical and horrible (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34716916)

This thing is way better,

I don't get it (1)

LordNacho (1909280) | more than 3 years ago | (#34716950)

You can make sounds on a computer without making a robot? It's cool as a technical project, but what's the value in having it actually playing in a band when you can just have a recording of whatever sound you want?

Think I'll whoosh myself...

Re:I don't get it (1)

yvanthegreat (1032262) | more than 3 years ago | (#34717776)

There's more to music than playing in a band. Also, acoustical sound is more directional than a stereo setup.

Bravo! Kudos to the Construtors! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34717018)

That the thing can handle violent, sustained and sudden movements, and not have vibrated itself to death deserves a round of applause.

No soul man (1)

bami (1376931) | more than 3 years ago | (#34717064)

Wake me up when they make something like this: []

Re:No soul man (1)

korgitser (1809018) | more than 3 years ago | (#34717614)

Craig: Was there ever a moment, when you guys first came up with the genius plan to become a Peruvian flute band, that any of you said "Hey, you know? This plan might backfire." ... No. That never occurred to you. Because you guys are jerks. You never learn from your mistakes. And that's why everyone at school thinks you're assholes.
Kyle: That's not true! Kids at school like us. Don't they?
Stan: Yeah dude. The kids at school totally like us. Craig's just being a dick because we're having a tough time right now.
Craig: I'm being a dick?
Stan: Yes!
Craig: You guys took my birthday money, got me arrested, sent to Miami with no way home except to take down the country of Peru - and I'm being a dick?
Cartman: There's no talkin' to this guy!

Re:No soul man (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34718478)

There's soul in that animation? It's cool for a minute, but either I'm missing something or the definition of soul has changed.

I know there's a lot of DJ and mashup fans here, but a human musician can react to the moment in ways computers can't, at least right now. Music is about emotion, and for the time being, you need emotions to make music. IMHO, of course.

You gotta admit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34717848)

The video with Snooki's mom belly dancing was pretty hot

*Yawn* Nothing to see here. (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 3 years ago | (#34719106)

It's a player piano (and not a particularly good one) - we've had those for over a century now.

So so... (1)

osgeek (239988) | more than 3 years ago | (#34719368)

Meh... call me when it's made from legos.

But can it do Steve Vai? (1)

Whatsmynickname (557867) | more than 3 years ago | (#34719638)

Although it looks interesting, please get back to reposting when that robot can play Steve Vai's Tender Surrender [] ...

PAM? (1)

adavies42 (746183) | more than 3 years ago | (#34720540)

Is she made out of polythene?

Am I the only person here who's impressed by this? (1)

mr_bigmouth_502 (1946960) | more than 3 years ago | (#34721120)

I actually thought it sounded pretty cool. Sure, it sounds nothing like actual guitar playing, but it would really well in some sort of a noisy industrial rock act. :)

Re:Am I the only person here who's impressed by th (1)

cybin (141668) | more than 3 years ago | (#34722790)

It is very impressive for a number of reasons, but I would challenge the naysayers on this thread... if you think it's so lousy and stupid, you build one.

Industrial automation came into maturity during the last century -- research is research. The current generation of musical robots and automated musical instruments is a fraction of what they WILL BE, because of research like this. They offer new avenues for musical expression and are giving creators new tools to work with -- which is a TOTALLY worthwhile pursuit.

I get it but I don't (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34722156)

I get the cool engineering and programing aspect. I don't get the desire to listing to music played by machines programed by humans. The best music is played with passion, it slides around a time signature at times then tightens, ebbs and flows. Maybe for listening to computerized music is just fine (lots of drums on musical productions are programed in a computer), but as for watching a performance I want some humanity.

So what? (1)

wfstanle (1188751) | more than 3 years ago | (#34723778)

Yes a robot might be able to play music perfectly but the performance will always miss something. The missing element is playing with "feeling". This element is hard to define but music aficionados will always be able to tell if it is missing. Maybe, in time, robots will play with true feeling but we are a nowhere close to that goal. Viewers of Star Trek will know what I mean. Data could play music perfectly and he could even simulate the style of great performers but there was nothing of himself in those performances.

utter crap (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34724534)

as a real HUMAN guitarist all i have to say is

1) That sounds appalling
2) Machine aint got no soul, lets see it play i dont know, something like The Thrill Is Gone, by B.B. King....
3) Its sounds fucked

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