YuMi the robot music conductor steals limelight

Lawrence Kim
September 13, 2017

The dual-armed YuMi robot conducts the Lucca Philharmonic Orchestra at the Teatro Verdi in Pisa, Italy, on Tuesday. "It is unlikely robots will ever prove capable of combining the scholarship, artistry, technique, interpretation and charisma of a skilled human conductor", it says. Grammy-nominated tenor Andrea Bocelli and soprano Maria Luigia Borsi also sang at the gala.

There was just one thing a little bit off: The conductor was a robot.

"I think tonight we're truly making history and writing the future of robotics applications", said ABB CEO, Ulrich Spiesshofer, after the performance.

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. He held the robot's two arms in rehearsals so Yumi's computer could memorize the right gestures.

The 84-lb. bot has wrists, elbows, and shoulders that give it wide freedom of motion. YuMi uses a process called "lead through" programming, which means it can be physically taught rather than relying on back-end software.

YuMi conducted three pieces during last night's concert: "La Donna è Mobile" from Verdi's Rigoletto, "O mio babbino caro" from Puccini's Gianni Schicchi and the "Intermezzo" from Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana.

ABB, along with Germany's Kuka and Japan's Fanuc and Yasukawa Electric, are the four biggest players in the worldwide industrial robotics market, an industry that's projected to triple to $33.8 billion by 2025.

The 84-pound robot is equipped with 30 sensors that perceive the world in 3D.

It's not a particularly friendly looking robot, and Colombini acknowledged that they did not get on at first.

Then, the robot was trained to mimic the movements of a conductor in guiding the orchestra in a performance of The Impossible Dream from movie Man Of La Mancha.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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