Robotic conductor leads live orchestra in opera world first

YuMi rehearses for its first big performance. New Atlas

YuMi rehearses for its first big performance. New Atlas

YuMi led the orchestra in three of the 18 pieces, performed by the Lucca Philharmonic orchestra in the elegant Teatro Verdi, for an event to coincide with the First International Festival of Robotics held in the city. Well, if you're a conductor of an orchestra perhaps you should be, after a droid demonstrated it is capable of controlling the complexities of a philharmonic - as well as world-renowned opera singer Andrea Boccelli.

"Further to conducting Bocelli, he also conducted soloist Maria Luigia Borsi in a rendition of "O mio babbino caro" from Puccini's 'Gianni Schicchi".

Among the guests was ABB CEO Ulrich Spiesshofer, under whose leadership YuMi was developed.

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. It also has arms, elbows and wrists which allow for freedom of motion.

Training the the bot required collaboration between ABB and conductor Andrea Colombini. "At the start I kept getting wound up because it kept getting stuck, and when the robot gets stuck it takes 25 to 30 minutes to reset it", Colombini told AFP.

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YuMi has found its way into factories around the globe since debuting at Germany's Hannover Messe tech festival in 2015. YuMi's attempts at these movements were recorded, then the robot's moves were fine-tuned, reaching an unexpected level.

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

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

Add orchestral conductor to the list of jobs in which humans are in danger of replacement by robots.

"It is ultimately not gifted with human sensitivity", Colombini wrote.

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