iCub: the Robot Dj

The iCub and a human jam together on the Reactable

At the Synthetic, Perceptive, Emotive and Cognitive Systems group (SPECS) at the Universidad Pompeu Fabra (UPF) in Barcelona, it’s just your average Jam session. Fellow music makers include a PhD student, a robot and the Reactable! The demonstration featured in the video above merges two projects into one: The Reactable and the Experimental Functional Android Assistant  (EFAA), which is using the iCub robot as its main research platform.

Robot-lovers are likely already familiar with the iCub, a European robot famous for being able to interact with the world much the way a small child does- by learning from others around it. As  robots become increasingly ubiquitous  in our daily lives, the social compatibility of such robots gains more importance and in order to meaningfully interact with humans, robots need some real-world social intelligence.  For this reason robotocists are working hard to endow machines like the iCub with novel perceptual, behavioural, emotional, motivational and cognitive capabilities.

While there has been  a lot of research centred on human-robot interaction, another interesting line of research investigates not only  how humans interact with robots but also how different forms of technology  interact with each other. Within this context, robots are rather special because they’re capable of using some forms of technology much the way humans do.  The video above features the iCub simultaneously jamming with musician and scientist, Andre Luvizotto, on the Reactable.

Beginning as a research project by the Music Technology Group at UPF,  the Reactable is a new electronic musical instrument  that enables musicians to experiment with sound by changing its structure and controlling  its parameters in a highly original way. Recently turned into a spin-off company, Reactable Systems, the amazing piece of technology is  now being used by various musicians around the globe, including world renown Icelandic singer-songwriter Björk.

While the iCub’s got a ways to go before becoming a Reactable pro, guided by Andre, it’s capable of identifying, grasping and positioning objects that symbolically represent different musical instruments. The result is sweet, sweet music- made by one man and two machines!

We know it takes creative minds to inspire new technology, are we now on our way to making creative technology that can inspire us?

You may want to read a Spanish article in the El País Technology blog about a Robot artist… and if you’re curious about more cutting edge technology, check out the European Flagship Initiative: Robot Companions for Citizens

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2 Responses to iCub: the Robot Dj

  1. Debby Kully says:

    Thank you for this article! I’m doing a lot of research. Would it be permitted to refer to this article just as long as I add a link to your article?

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