What's common to a Swiss Humanoid Robot, an Italian Tenor and a Tuscan Orchestra

This is a first for any robot in the world and has significant implications in terms of dexterity to emulate the conductor’s movement and complement them.

By Prasad Sanyal | Last Updated: Sep 12, 2017, 18:46 PM IST
What's common to a Swiss Humanoid Robot, an Italian Tenor and a Tuscan Orchestra

Today Pisa will witness a robot, YuMi, conduct an orchestra in the works of Verdi as the Italian tenor Andrea Bochelli takes the stage. The event will mark the end of the first International Festival of Robotics organized by the Scuola Normale of the Pisa University and the ARPA  foundation.

This is a first for any robot in the world and has significant implications in terms of dexterity to emulate the conductor’s movement and complement them. Conductor and the director of the Teatro Verdi in  Pisa Andrea Colombini says the final outcome is incredible. “The gestural nuances of a conductor have been fully reproduced at a level that was previously unthinkable to me.  YuMi achieves a very high level of fluidity of gesture, with an incredible softness of touch and expressive nuancing. This is an incredible step forward, given the rigidity of gestures by previous robots.”

Bocelli will sing as YuMi, created by the Swiss major ABB, directs La donna è mobile, (Woman is fickle), a famed scene from the third act of Giuseppe Verdi’s Rigoletto performed by the Lucca Philharmonic. Soloist Maria Luigia Borsis will accompany the robot by singing the classic soprano aria O mio babbino caro (Oh my beloved father) from Gianni Schicchi by Puccini. 

YuMi also will direct a passage from Mascagni’s Intermezzo in the Cavalleria Rusticana.

Explaining how YuMi prepped to conduct an orchestra – Colombini explains: “First, my movements were captured with a process called “lead-through programming,” where the robot’s two arms are guided to follow my motions with great attention to detail; these movements are then recorded. The second step involved fine-tuning the movements in ABB’s RobotStudio software, where we made sure the motions were synchronized to the music.”

At $40,000 a piece (the global price that converts to about 24 lakh rupees though ABB wouldn't reveal how much it sells in India for or the global sales figures) this unique robot, may not find domestic applications - but it can, the company claims, thread a needle with precision. A company spokesperson said: “YuMi has been introduced in many countries so far and has exceeded our expectations. It has been well received in the target electronics industry and is also capturing the interest of automotive OEMs  and companies ranging from testing laboratories to wristwatch makers.”

Watch this space as we track the performance tonight and see how YuMi goes.