Robot conducts tenor Bocelli, orchestra in Pisa

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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.

The white, two-armed YuMi robot, designed by the Swiss company ABB for factory assembly lines, led Bocelli and the Lucca Philharmonic Orchestra in Verdi's "La Donna e Mobile" on Tuesday night at Pisa's inaugural International Robotics Festival. Writing in a blog post ahead of the performance, Colombini described the process as "satisfying, albeit challenging"; consisting first of programming via performance and then fine-tuning to synchronize the robot's movements with the music. "Setting up the interaction between the elbow, forearm and wrist of the robot, making use of its versatility in repeated and demanding attempts to break down the upbeats and downbeats, was very successful", Colombini said, according to an ABB press release of the event.

Itzhak Perlman shouldn't worry just yet, however: Colombini pointed out that YuMi wasn't programmed to respond to changes in an orchestra's performance. And it's why Colombini doesn't seem to feel threatened by his robot counterpart.

"It was not love at first sight". "Training YuMi to perform six minutes of music "took 17 hours of work". Grammy-nominated tenor Andrea Bocelli and soprano Maria Luigia Borsi also sang at the gala.

Maria Luigia Borsi on stage with YuMi
Maria Luigia Borsi on stage with YuMi

Bocelli, who is visually impaired, had to remember the tempo YuMi had been taught down to the second.

"There's no way it could replace the sensitivity and emotion of a conductor, because a robot has no soul".

"It's a cool effect. but there's no way this could be the future", he said. In other words, the robot can move its arms in the appropriate ways at the appropriate times within the aria, as previously instructed by a human conductor.

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