How YuMi the Robot stole the show from tenor Andrea Bocelli

No ordinary performance from an not-so-ordinary conductor : All eyes in Pisa were on YuMi the Humanoid as it raised the baton to conduct the orchestra and there were definitely no signs of nerves.

By Prasad Sanyal | Updated: Sep 14, 2017, 14:58 PM IST
How YuMi the Robot stole the show from tenor Andrea Bocelli

Having a robot conduct a philharmonic orchestra seems straight out of some Hollywood sci-fi movie. When we stumbled upon YuMi, a  collaborative dual-arm robot, being trained to lead the orchestra at Teatro Verdi in Pisa, we brought you that story.

YuMi, made by the Swiss major ABB, it seems acquitted itself quite well on on all accounts.  It directed Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli in a program of Verdi at a charity concert as part of the First International Festival of Robotics in Pisa.

Conductor Andrea Colombini, the director of the  Lucca Philharmonic Orchestra, who  trained the robot prior to Tuesday night’s concert so that it would be prepared with the correct movements, said the  gestural nuances of a conductor were fully reproduced at a level that was previously unthinkable to him.

“Setting up the interaction between the elbow, forearm and wrist of the robot, making use of its versatility in repeated and demanding attempts to break down the upbeats and downbeats, was very successful,” he said.

YuMi conducted the world-renowned singer Andrea Bocelli in a performance that was called “A breath of hope: from the Stradivarius to the robot.”  Bocelli said it was fun to perform with YuMi. “It showed that a robot could really conduct an orchestra, but only with the excellent work of very talented engineers and a real maestro.”

The robot conducted three of the 18 pieces performed on Tuesday night, including the famous aria La Donna e’ Mobile, from Verdi’s opera Rigoletto.

The performance marks the latest milestone for ABB which unveiled  YuMi in 2015. "I think tonight we’re truly making history and writing the future of robotics applications," said ABB CEO Ulrich Spiesshofer after the performance.

ABB however admits that “itis unlikely robots will ever prove capable of combining the scholarship, artistry, technique, interpretation and charisma of a skilled human conductor. The simple goal is to develop industrial robots that are easier to use and perform better with less human intervention.”

In a press release, the company said: “This is an incredible step forward, given the rigidity of gestures by previous robots and proves how easily YuMi can be programmed to do the most delicate jobs in electro- mechanic assembly.”

In 2008, Honda's ASIMO had conducted the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.