Bocelli sings praises of robotic conductor

Humanoid robot YuMi conducts the Lucca Philharmonic Orchestra performing a concert alongside Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli at the Verdi Theatre in Pisa

Bocelli sings praises of robotic conductor

Its fluid movements are similar to those of a human, which is why ABB made a decision to give YuMi a musical test during this week's First International Festival of Robotics in Pisa. Grammy-nominated tenor Andrea Bocelli and soprano Maria Luigia Borsi also sang at the gala.

In one of the most lovely theaters of Italian tradition, Maestro Bocelli sang as YuMi directed "La Donna è Mobile", the famous aria from Verdi's "Rigoletto".

YuMi, too, was trained to copy the movements of conductor Andrea Colombini, who guided the robotic arms to mimic flourishes he had mastered over a career of leading orchestras. "It showed that a robot could really conduct an orchestra, but only with the excellent work of very talented engineers and a real maestro". The robot's trainer, Andrea Colombini, said the machine is designed in a manner to execute its task in the most efficient manner.

ABB's software RobotStudio was also utilized to fine-tune the movements, especially to ensure that they stay in sync with the music.

The robot is programmed to learn the exact arm movements a human conductor would perform to spur on the strings or to indicate tempo.

"The gestural nuances of a conductor have been fully reproduced at a level that was previously unthinkable to me. This is an incredible step forward, given the rigidity of gestures by previous robots", Colombini wrote.

YuMi rehearses for its first big performance.

Writing in a blog post ahead of the performance, Colombini described the process as "satisfying, albeit challenging".

The first International Festival of Robotics has been a place for spreading awareness of robotics, and of robotics applications, including collaborative industrial robots like YuMi. The robot uses its arms, but the soul, the spirit, always come from a human.

The company says the ultimate goal is not to replace human conductors with robots.

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