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The First Robotic Musician 128

eldavojohn writes, "A new robot named Haile (pronounced hi-lee), which 'listens' to what musicians are playing and play along with them, has been developed at the [corrected] Georgia Institute of Technology. There are some videos at the GATech site. From the article: "If the musicians change the beat or rhythm, Haile is right there with them. 'With Haile there are two levels of musical knowledge... The basic level is to teach it to learn to identify music, to imitate,' Weinberg said. 'The higher level is stability of rhythm, to be able to distinguish between similar rhythms. In essence, Haile has the ability to recognize if a rhythm is more chaotic or stable, and can adjust its playing accordingly.' I don't know about the rest of Slashdot, but I can't wait for the day when I have my very own Robo Puente to play along with."
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The First Robotic Musician

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  • GA Tech != UGA (Score:5, Informative)

    by MustardMan ( 52102 ) on Tuesday October 03, 2006 @10:32PM (#16300525)
    Jesus, is is that hard to get the university right? Not only is UGA not the same as GA Tech, they are bitter rivals.
    • by Xshare ( 762241 )
      Yea... a new innovation in robotics at UGA! Hah! What a joke! Actually, I'm friends with one of the students working on this project, and yea, it's really cool if you can get a hold of a video of it in action. /me is posting from the GT Library, working late hours... again. As much as I love this school, I freakin hate it.
    • by Erich ( 151 )

      Example college at GT: School of Electrical and Computer Engineering []

      Example college at UGA: School of Poultry Science(sic) []

      You can't get an Engineering degree from UGA. Similarly, you can't get a Literature degree from Georgia Tech.

      Time to continue ramblin'.

      • by Xshare ( 762241 )
        Actually, you can get a literature degree at Georgia Tech. LCC - Literature, Communication and Culture.
        • LCC is the _school_ that offers the degree (like the "School of Mechanical Engineering" does ME and NRE). The degree itself is called Science, Technology, and Culture (STAC)... and even that's not really a "literature" degree, per se. The general idea is that you study how science and technology have affected society and culture (including such things as literature, art, communications, etc). You end up taking a fair number of science and CS courses, and I'd say that graduates probably have a better sci
          • by Tsa05 ( 998352 )
            Yay! Thanks for plugging my major!

            I should also add that Computational Media, GaTech's version of a video game design bundled with a couple other design fields, has recently been added to LCC.

            To Hell With Georgia!!!
      • by sakti ( 16411 )
        A more appropriate comparison might be to UGA's AI Center [] which is quite a good program, just more oriented toward logic and AI than engineering.
    • by rhizome ( 115711 )
      Well obviously the story was submitted by an envious UGA student or alum!
    • by metlin ( 258108 )
      Thank you.

      As a GT alumni, the comparison is almost insulting. :)
      • Yeah, if it got out that you'd been around girls while in college, it might do irreperable damage to your nerd cred.
    • Muse all you like about what a robot can be considered as being. But a drummer is not a musician.

  • OLD NEWS (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    This is old news.
    See: []
  • ..before computer generated music becomes better than anything that could possibly be created by a person?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jpardey ( 569633 )
      Depends on what you mean by better. In terms of musical response by humans, the point won't be until emotions and thought are codified and corelated with music theory much more so than they are now. By then, we will have run out of fossil fuels to power our computers, and that guy at your college who always played accoustic guitar by the parking lot will have groupies cooking him dinner over an open fire. However, if by better you mean more harmonic, or more complex, then I guess you can program an alogorth
    • by ergo98 ( 9391 )

      ..before computer generated music becomes better than anything that could possibly be created by a person?

      I guess it's all how you perceive it. I would always seen a person (or rather many people) behind that hardware/software combination, so ultimately it comes down to people just using different tools. A piano is a better instrument than punching yourself in the testes (presumedly), but there's still people using the piano (directly or indirectly) who are responsible for the music.

    • Re:how long.. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by pennyher0 ( 852359 ) on Tuesday October 03, 2006 @10:58PM (#16300697) Homepage
      This is less like computer-generated music, and more like machine-learning, only through music. Seems hella awesome.

      And for the record, art/music is often about context, and the artist is a big part of what makes music "good". An unknown musician doesn't ever make it into the top 20 without the help of producers, promoters, radio spots, stories, etc. This is basic marketing. The product itself rarely sells--it's the story or the artist behind it or the context or just plain mob-consumer mentality that was initially triggered by one of those things that accumulates together to make the thing popular.

      if a robot made cool music, and was intelligent, neat. it might be popular, but not because it is good music... more because it was ROBOT-made music.

      Otherwise, I'd be a fangirl of the engineer who made the robot... just like I'm getting all woozy thinking about the people who made this software.
      • by ghyd ( 981064 )
        >> Actually some people (but apparenly not in the /. demographics) don't relate "good music" to "top 20 music". Shocking, I know.
        • Which is probably why the GP made a distinction between music having the quality of being good and music having the quality of being "good" (i.e. on the top 20 list).
    • by Samah ( 729132 )
      > ..before computer generated music becomes better than anything that could possibly be created by a person?

      Well, better than Britney Spears at least. :)
      • In the Musical Turing Test recently, judges were unable to tell the difference between Britney Spears and a vocoder reading spam. I rest my case.
    • Re:how long.. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by gameforge ( 965493 ) on Tuesday October 03, 2006 @11:37PM (#16300929) Journal
      how long....before computer generated music becomes better than anything that could possibly be created by a person?

      Could you imagine a digital device, maybe like an iPod, that composed music on the fly, which intelligently complemented your mood? I could see this being addictive for certain people and causing them to lose touch with human music. I mean, in my reality, not yours.

      Anyway... if you could write a program that simulated heroin or acid (or even just pot), it would probably write some pretty cool stuff. But it wouldn't remember to save it and would get the munchies and fall asleep for half a day... and would still be an improvement on current mainstream music, most of which is just the results of marketing formulas anyway. But, no robot could fuzz down a guitar like Jimi Hendrix, or yelp like Kurt Cobain, or offend like Frank Zappa (or name your gangster rap artist).

      Here's a question: what happens when you start jamming with two of these robots, and then you stop playing? Do they just duet until you unplug one of them or what?
      • by jpardey ( 569633 )
        There already is such a device. It is called a "guitar."
      • "Here's a question: what happens when you start jamming with two of these robots, and then you stop playing? Do they just duet until you unplug one of them or what?"

        Here's an idea!

        You should give one of them a guitar, and the other one a banjo!
        Then start playing C C F C and add a bit of yankee doodley into the mix...

    • by Simonetta ( 207550 ) on Tuesday October 03, 2006 @11:38PM (#16300931)
      So who is the RIAA going to sue? They have to sue someone. After all, that's all they do nowdays since the equalization of the vinyl records is no longer as profitable as extortion. (and because there aren't as many gold records to award as in previous years).

          Any time a robot plays something, it is going to sound like something that the RIAA holds 'rights' to. So the robot is 'infringing' on 'their' copyrights. But, uh, sueing a robot is hard. They don't respond to threats. They ignore injunctions. Robots don't give a shit about human law, man, they just wanna rock'n'roll.

          So are they going after the programmer?

        "Your Honor, Let it be known that after 2.345 hours of playing a 130 beats per minute tempo, in the key of G#, if the human misses the beat by 0.256 seconds, the robot under inditment will consistently and 'knowingly' play the first three notes of "Free Bird". This is a willfull violation of copyright. We want $100,000,000,000.00; payable in monthly installments."

        But the great thing about robots is no only can they now play music, but, with a little tweaking, they can also tear the fingers and toes off of entertainment lawyers. Accidently, of course, but AI routines can get a little unpredictable when clogged with human legal chaos. Shit happens.

        Personally, when I want to play along with a machine I use a Zoom 900x series guitar effects DSP with the early 1970's Rolling Stones fed into the analog mix channel. Mix your guitar with lots of reverb, overdrive, a touch of delay, and a dollop of attitude.

        When you get a robot to do what Keith Richards does, let me know.
    • by avapex ( 1003914 )
      Computers have the ability to manipulate finite datasets. This could be applied to anything (music included).

      If a hard drive is loaded with lots of music from many genres, a program could analyze the scale and chord progression for every song. After the program is finished analyzing and categorizing all of the musical trends, pseudo-random output within a specified statistical variance could be presented as new music.

      However, music is the result of priceless human creativity from the following genras: Med
    • Once the RIAA realizes that they won't have to pay these things any royalties, cybersupergroups will be the order of the day...
    • by joto ( 134244 )
      Probably never. Because when a human uses a computer to create music, it's not "computer-generated", but "computer-assisted". On the other hand, the thought of a computer using a human to create music, is something we are not willing to accept. So it would be called "computer-assisted" as well. So, basically, our unique perspective makes us always win over the machines.

      By the way, if a future society someday becomes ruled by compuers (or robots), I'm pretty sure we would call it "computer-assisted governm

  • by bmetz ( 523 ) on Tuesday October 03, 2006 @10:35PM (#16300565) Homepage
    We'll know robots are truly evolved when they build their own museum :)
  • GA Tech, not UGA (Score:2, Redundant)

    by theguru ( 70699 )
    Bitter, instate rivals... get those confused in the wrong company in this town, and you'll regret it :)

    Randy Farmer
    Atlanta, GA
  • I smell protests from the drummer and bass guitar unions. First the industrial revolution replaced workers with robots, now the entertainment industry is being targetted.

    Wait, if the robotic drummer/bass guitar player invents a new riff, who takes the royalties? Maybe it could use the money for new servo motors or a replacement oil pan.
    • and I can say no chance with 100% accuracy becuase of one event that we all know and love. Ashley Simpsons' lip sync on SNL.

      People want to see people playing instruments - we can hear a synthesizer anywhere... chances are about 10% of the people who read this will use some sort of synthesizer along with their guitar playing or whatever. I really don't feel the need to say more...

  • by noidentity ( 188756 ) on Tuesday October 03, 2006 @10:35PM (#16300575)
    I think we had one of those when I was a kid, though it was usually out of tune and you had to feed it Kibbles 'n Bits.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 03, 2006 @10:36PM (#16300577)
    It's a percussionist, most of them are pretty robotic anyway.
    • by kfg ( 145172 ) *
      What do you call someone who likes to hang out with musicians?

      A drummer.


      What do you call a robot who likes to hang out with drummers?


      • What do you call a robot who likes to hang out with drummers?

        Um, Haile?
      • by psalm33 ( 117641 )
        Q: How many drummers does it take to change a light bulb?
        A: None! They have machines to do that now!

        Q: What is the difference between a drummer and a drum machine?
        A: A drum machine can keep a steady beat and won't steal your girlfriend!

        Q: What do you call the girl that's always hanging on the drummer's arm?
        A: A tattoo.

        Q: Why do bands have bass players?
        A: To translate for the drummer.

        Q: What did the drummer get on his IQ test?
        A: Drool.

        Did you hear about the bass player who locked his keys in the car?
        He had
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by wired_LAIN ( 974675 )
      Right. The problem is that nearly all other types of instruments require so much dexterity (look at the violin for instance) that we wouldn't be able to build a robot that could mechanically produce decent sound.

      I think it would be much easier to create better synthesizers and just have the robots use the synths... I mean the guy says a lot of stuff about how its important that the robot is able to use audio and visual cues, but I dont think that has anything to do with actually playing the music mechani
      • I don't think you could achieve the same type of expression using a synth to replicate string instruments.

        Think about bending a note or sliding into the next note. Hard to do with a keyboard unless there are a variety of sliders/knobs/pedals etc. to allow those effects.

        At that point it might be that the synth becomes so complex that you need a robot to operate all of the controls at once. But would that robot be able to supply his own expression or would have to be programmed in.

    • Me play Drums! Me offended!!
  • by Chacham ( 981 )
    "And for our next robot".... "drumroll please"....
  • after the lead singer thought he was a fish and the drummer went of to live on an island with a rock as a friend.
  • Oh yeah? (Score:5, Funny)

    by kin_korn_karn ( 466864 ) on Tuesday October 03, 2006 @10:53PM (#16300663) Homepage
    Can they show up to practice drunk and/or stoned? Do their girlfriends get jealous of the other musicians' girlfriends and start drama for no reason? Do they forget spare strings at the gig and have to borrow a bass from the other band? Do they need a place to crash one night and you come to find three months later that they still haven't left?

    They can't be REAL musician robots until those conditions can be fulfilled.
  • who'd like to take two of these things, put them in the same room, start to play something, then stop and see how the two work off eachother?
  • first? well, maaaybe (Score:5, Informative)

    by radarsat1 ( 786772 ) on Tuesday October 03, 2006 @11:03PM (#16300729) Homepage
    Of course, musical accompaniment systems have been around since the 80's and earlier. It's been a research topic in artificial intelligence nearly since its inception!

    Robert Rowe [] published a book on the topic in 1992, on his Cypher system. Here's another good article [] on the topic by Chris Dobrian. For an open-source system, check out Bob van der Poel's MMA [].

    Additionally, there's been plenty of work done on robotics for playing instruments, particularly for percussion.

    So, admittedly, this is the first time I've personally heard of a project combining the two, so I'll give it that credit for innovation. But I'd be sorta surprised if it hasn't been done previously. When you think about it... all these musical accompaniment systems react in real-time to MIDI input. Simply make a couple of motors respond to MMA's ouptut, for example, adjust timing according to latency and inertia, and you could probably have this project done in a few days.

    Not to play it down, I always love to see fun projects like this.. :) And the physical design is quite beautiful for a drum-playing robot.
    But "first".. well, give credit where it's due. I think the summary is over-reacting. (I scanned the article.. don't believe it makes any such claims.)
    • Whoops.. says so in the first paragraph. My bad. :)
      But is it accurate..
      Like I said, it might well be the first to actually combine robotics and musical accompaniment. I'm not sure. I guess I'll give the article the benifit of the doubt!
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by doom ( 14564 )
        Yes, I was just stopping in to complain about that "first" business.

        Matt Ingalls, a clarinetist/improviser/composer in the SF Bay Area, did some work with computerized accompaniment that was pretty impressive. His "Recent Works" release had some tracks where you'd swear there was a live pianist following the clairinet improvisations.

        Ah, and if you look under "Sounds" on his homepage, he has some mp3 samples up

    • When you think about it... all these musical accompaniment systems react in real-time to MIDI input.

      Minor nit-pick here... MIDI is by definition computer-generated, sometimes in response to direct human input (like a human playing a MIDI keyboard, for instance). SmartMusic [], for example, takes microphone input from a live performer and "follows" the performer with a predefined accompaniment. If I play my saxophone into the microphone, MIDI is not the result, but the computer can somewhat follow me, so l

    • If you are interested in finding out more about the sort of algorithms that are used, you may want to check out Gödel, Escher, Bach [] by Douglas Hofstadter.
      Hofstadter is inspired by the links between the Music of Bach, Escher's art and Gödel's incompleteness theorems. IMHO, it should be on the required reading list for all computer science courses.
    • This is certainly not the first. The CNN article even mentions LEMUR, who made GuitarBot years ago (~2003 from memory, their site doesn't say). In addition to performing many pieces composed for it, GuitarBot has also been controlled by interactive software. There were a few notable performances with violinist Mari Kimura in 2003, a few months after it debuted. Interactivity wasn't its specialty, but it's been done.

      Still, though, Haile this is a neat thing. You could have it done in a few days - but not

  • Are we not men? We are Devo!
  • Now that we have a robotic musician, we're ever more closer to a Robot Devil and then one step away from Robot Hell. Then we're going to have fidling contests and sing excellent songs. I can picture it now... *wanders off singing and dancing*

    Fencing diamonds, fixing cock fights
    Publishing indecent magazines,
    You'll pay for every crime,
    Knee deep in electric slime,
    You'll suffer til the end of time,
    Enduring tortures most of which rhyme,
    Trapped forever here in robot hell!

  • It's the first robot that hangs out with a bunch of musicians.
    • by Gleng ( 537516 )
      Q: What's the difference between a drummer and a drum synthesiser?

      A: You only have to punch the information into a drum synthesiser once.

  • No, wait. My bad.

    I am always confusing robotized with fossilized.


    Still, someday every band will be robotic...

  • I'll have to go spin up my trusty Media Lab laserdisc, but I recall Barry Vercoe demo-ing this or something very much like it. They had a virtual performer (piano, IIRC) that could follow / learn / accompany live individual human performer (violin, again IIRC) and cope with changes in phrasing. So this would date to when laserdiscs were cool. Of course there was probably a Cray at the other end of a telltale cable, but hey.
  • by bowlman ( 944884 ) on Tuesday October 03, 2006 @11:38PM (#16300933)
    We're charging our battery And now we're full of energy We are the robots We are the robots .... We're functioning automatic And we are dancing mechanic We are the robots We are the robots ....
  • Robot loops (Score:2, Interesting)

    How does the robot analyze what's being played? Are all the musicians playing instruments hooked up to a MIDI interface? If not,it's pretty amazing that he can analyze the pure sound. It would be pretty neat to have two of these robots play together. I suppose you'd have to start things off with a few notes from one of them, but it would be interesting to hear after that.
    • by kfg ( 145172 ) *
      How does the robot analyze what's being played?

      It's called a "microphone."

      . . .it's pretty amazing that he can analyze the pure sound.

      Like a digital tuner, some of which, yes, have metronome functions that will match a beat.

      • I don't understand why everyone on messageboards seems to get off on shutting down total strangers. No need to be sarcastic about it. If it was just a silly question, you can answer it straightforwardly without getting bitchy. It wasn't just a silly question, though. Unfortunately, I made the post before reading the article and watching the videos, so I didn't see the robot in action. Turns out it's just playing a drum. But if it had been a pitch-based playing along, using the equivalent of a digital tuner
        • by kfg ( 145172 ) *
          I don't understand why everyone on messageboards seems to get off on shutting down total strangers.

          Because they don't RTFAs. :) S'Ok, I've been guilty myself. But really, sensing sound isn't a difficult proposition. It simply takes a diaphram of sufficient sensitivity to vibrate.

          I made the post before reading the article and watching the videos. . .

          Haven't been able to watch the videos myself.

          . . .if it had been a pitch-based playing along. . .

          I would be more suitably amazed, but it's not, so arguments base
  • I'll play it some Autechre.
  • What about Phil Collins?!
  • U[sic]GA couldn't even come close to accomplishing this. Nice try, OP.
  • What a waste of time and cash. If this is about machine learning, this guy is years behind. If this is about a computer playing drums, just buy a drum machine from Yamaha and be happy. The most impressive piece of technology in these video clips is that big Apple monitor on this dude's desk. As to a machine playing drums, I've seen one in a museum. It was made in 1800s and will give this computerized plywood wonder a run for its money.
    • by joto ( 134244 )

      Well, did you listen to it? It does not sound anything like a drum machine from Yamaha. And it serves a totally different purpose than a drum machine from Yamaha. And it sounds, and interacts with the user in a totally different way than the 1800-era machine. And it serves a totally different purpose than the 1800-era machine.

      Just because there have been other mechanical and/or electronic contraptions that serve the purpose of (or have part of their purpose to be) providing drum-like sounds, doesn't mean

  • I, for one, welcome our new robot musicians.
  • The RIAA is training an army of robots to take over the world since they lost the war with the internet! Bastards!
  • oh great... (Score:3, Funny)

    by advocate_one ( 662832 ) on Wednesday October 04, 2006 @01:29AM (#16301531)
    a glorified metronome that can't keep time... just like our current drummer...
  • For a really nifty AI drummer, see Jamstix []. It is a VST plugin that listens to what you play (either audio or MIDI input), and plays drums along with you.

    It is incredible fun to play guitar with -- rock, jazz, blues stuff for me -- and the demos and songs that people have created with it are impressive. Rather than playing unlike a human, it has algorithms to mimic a human drummer's limb movements and such. The sounds and rhythms are all tweakable -- you can describe what you want, and leave the actual

  • by Ralph Spoilsport ( 673134 ) on Wednesday October 04, 2006 @01:57AM (#16301675) Journal
    1. he doesn't get tired.
    2. he doesn't show up an hour late for practice, completely drunk.
    3. he doesn't ask stupid questions when the rest of the band gets into strategy and show planning.
    4. he won't eat all th efood i nthe fridge at the band house.
    5. he won't choke to death on someone else's vomit.

    But if he is using Sony batteries, he might spontaneously combust...


    • "But if he is using Sony batteries, he might spontaneously combust... "

      This sound like a perfect Spinal Tap drummer candidate ;-)
    • by joto ( 134244 )

      4. he won't eat all th efood i nthe fridge at the band house.

      I'm pretty sure a robot drummer would eat all the efood. Probably drink all the edrinks as well, at least if they contained ealcohol.

  • Never saw the sun shinin' so bright Never saw things goin' so right (Cmdr. Data, Encounter at Farpoint Captain Picard and B4, ST: Nemesis)
  • by adwb ( 778985 )
    I for one welcome our new robotic musician overlords.
  • ...she's been on One tree hill for years now.
  • ...for a long time? What about street organs? And what about instruments like the Hupfeld Phonoliszt Violina Orchestrion []? This apparatus uses some mechanism to play violins. And that is almost 100 years old and was at that time regarded as the 7th World Wonder.
  • I don't know about the rest of Slashdot, but I can't wait for the day when I have my very own Robo Puente to play along with
    Can somebody explain the pun to me?
    To my best understanding it seems like a mixup between argentine comedian/actor "Rolo Puente" and musician "Tito Puente"... but that would be a mistake only an argentinian would make. Is there some other explanation for the pun?
  • I hate to break it to you, but there already are robotic musicians. The County Bear Jamboree. Those robots have been pickin and a grinnin for years!
  • Anyone else remember the robot hand keyboardist that flipped off Steve Gutenberg in the 1980s? []
  • Now the robot can be the un-cool member of the band!
  • This may be an experiment with AI but it shows we have a long way to go.

    This robot follows a rhythm section - and not much else. It still requires the human mind to lead it. It still requires the human mind to originate the rhythm or the music.

    Most if not all musical AI experiments involve a robot using a preprogrammed piece of music. Human composers create the music and/or arrangement.

    Humans create music when their emotions respond to life events. Blues music was an outlet for the oppressed or th

  • Seriously in my opinion, the day a robot, an animal or whatever can intentionally play music, it's not a robot anymore but a human being. Can anyone imagine a robot Glenn Gould ? a robot Debussy ? a robot Ali Farka Touré ? a robot Duke Ellington ? and then not give them full human rights ? And does this robot run on booze ? I think not !
  • so technically this thing is able to reproduce any song it hears, right?

    just wait until the RIAA finds out... not even bill gates will be able afford one of them
  • ...until they make one that looks like the Corrs...

  • it will learn to improvise off others melodies, leading to it being classified as one of those "crazy" jazz musicians and anyone who's ever lifted a soldering gun will be vilified in a movie called "Resistor Madness"

Forty two.