Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Honda's Humanoid Robot ASIMO Conducts the Detroit Symphony Orchestra

By now, you guys are already familiar with robots playing violins or trumpets so it should come as no surprise when they've stepped up to the podium.

Leonard Slatkin, director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, stepped aside on Tuesday night for a special guest conductor. Standing at 4-foot-3 and weighing 119 pounds, Honda's Humanoid robot Asimo made his conducting debut with the piece. Asimo conducted the Orchestra to"The Impossible Dream" of Broadway fame Man of La Mancha.

ASIMO, which stands for Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility, is a robot designed and built by Honda. The company filmed Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) education director Charles Burke conducting the piece and programmed Asimo to copy his movements.

I found it interesting how faultless ASIMO was in his conducting yet players were taken aback from his metronomic style. A trumpeter described how difficult was to play on cue with the lack of eyes on ASIMO. Conductor Slatkin even remarked how improvisation was the one thing that this robot lacked in its conducting style. Essentially, the robot was a very complex and expensive windup toy that could conduct the same piece over and over without error. It has yet to acquire the kind of independent thought and expression that makes humans so unique in its body language or facial expressions.

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