The Four Armed Music Playing Robot

This recent discovery is a musical genius, but not in the way you are used to. We did not discover a killer keyboard player, or a voice that can melt hearts.

This recent musical discovery was built and it’s name is Shimon, a four armed music playing robot (marimba player) built by the Georgia Institute of Technology to be able to listen to music, improvise, and play along with human musicians.

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The lead researcher at Georgia Tech’s Center for Music Technology, Gil Weinberg, demonstrated what he and his lab have been working on for the past 12 years at a performance at Moogfest, a four-day music and technology festival in Durham, North Carolina.

They had aimed to augment the creative capabilities of humans with robotics. The result which would be robots like Shimon, able to use machine-learning programs trained on music theory and a wide range of musical styles, to be able to add a superhuman element to musical performances.

Shimon and it’s like would be able to play chord structures that would be physically impossible for humans to hit, an exciting thought. Even more exciting is the second unveiling at the concert. Weinberg introduced Jason Barnes, he had been a drummer but had lost the lower part of his right arm a few years ago. Barnes had reached out to Weinberg with hopes of drumming again, tasking him to create a robotic prosthesis that would recreate the functionality of drumming.

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Weinberg and his team had however gone over board and instead created a robot arm with two drumsticks that Barnes could control with the muscles in his bicep and that could drum at up to 20 beats per second. The success speaks to a leap towards robotic enhancements for humans and as Barnes joined Weinberg, his team and Shimon the four armed robot on stage to play a few songs, the experience was unbelievable.

There was the four armed music playing robot, Barnes, drumming faster and with greater accuracy and even two other robots brought on stage by Weinberg who acted as backup dancers, bobbing heads and tapping their feet in time with the music. Quartz earlier reported that Weinberg and his team are now working on a strap-on prosthetic arm that anyone can wear, which can listen to a beat and drum along to it.

The progress of Weinberg and his team with both Shimon, the four armed music playing robot and Jason Barnes is truly phenomenal and it makes it a little harder to guess at the future of music. Will we possibly have great robot musicians in a couple of years?