Ro­bot ‘con­duc­tor’ steals the show from Italy’s top tenor

Kuwait Times - - LIFESTYLE -

Ital­ian tenor An­drea Bo­celli’s voice soars to the rafters of the Tus­can the­atre, but all eyes are on the or­ches­tral con­duc­tor be­side him-a-ro­bot with an ap­par­ent pen­chant for Verdi. The con­cert in the heart of Pisa is a world first, with two me­chan­i­cal “arms” con­duct­ing live mu­sic at the grand fi­nale of the first In­ter­na­tional Fes­ti­val of Ro­bot­ics. The Swiss-de­signed YuMi sweeps its ba­ton sky­wards with one hand, while the other curves around in a ca­ress that spurs on the strings as the oper­atic “La Donna E’ Mo­bile” (“Woman Is Fickle) reaches its cli­max.

But mu­sic lovers be­ware: YuMi can con­duct set pieces, but can­not im­pro­vise, re­act or in­ter­act with the mu­si­cians. “It was ex­tremely dif­fi­cult to train,” says An­drea Colom­bini, the con­duc­tor of the Lucca Phil­har­monic Or­ches­tra which per­formed with Bo­celli and so­prano Maria Luigia Borsi on Tues­day. YuMi, de­signed by ro­bot­ics leader ABB, was taught to mimic Colom­bini’s ges­tures. The mae­stro said the au­tom­a­ton was far more so­phis­ti­cated than its “ri­val” Asimo, the white four-foot (1.2-me­tre) ro­bot de­signed by Honda which con­ducted the Detroit Sym­phony Or­ches­tra in 2008. “We’re not talk­ing about Asimo’s lim­ited up-and­down, one-arm move­ment...

YuMi is ex­tremely flex­i­ble and its arms have the same mo­bil­ity as mine,” he told AFP. YuMi does not stand, how­ever: It sits on a pedestal that gives it the sup­port it needs to move its long arms.

‘Just an arm, not the brain’

It’s not a par­tic­u­larly friendly look­ing ro­bot, and Colom­bini ac­knowl­edged that they did not get on at first. “It was not love at first sight. At the start I kept get­ting wound up be­cause it kept get­ting stuck, and when the ro­bot gets stuck it takes 25 to 30 min­utes to re­set it,” he said. “It took a long time,” he added: Train­ing YuMi to per­form six min­utes of mu­sic “took 17 hours of work.” Borsi looked ap­pre­hen­sive as she stood in her shock­ing pink con­cert gown, wait­ing for the ro­bot to be­gin di­rect­ing the clas­sic so­prano aria “O Mio Bab­bino Caro” (“Oh My Beloved Fa­ther”) by Puc­cini. The ef­fect is some­what odd: the mu­si­cians watch for the first ba­ton stroke and gamely fol­low it through­out the aria, but the tra­di­tional vi­tal­ity of a hu­man con­duc­tor­keep­ing tempo with the whole body, even through the breath­ing-is miss­ing.

Bo­celli, who is vis­ually im­paired, had to re­mem­ber the tempo YuMi had been taught down to the sec­ond. Any un­pro­grammed “ac­celerando” or “ral­len­tando” would have been dis­as­trous, as he had no way to get the con­duc­tor to fol­low his lead. “There’s no way it could re­place the sen­si­tiv­ity and emo­tion of a con­duc­tor, be­cause a ro­bot has no soul. It’s just an arm, not the brain, not the heart,” Colom­bini said. Later, when the con­duc­tor him­self takes to the stage, his whole body sways and thrusts-and the dif­fer­ence is star­tling. “There’s not much room un­for­tu­nately for im­pro­vi­sa­tion, you have to go with the ro­bot,” says Amer­i­can vi­o­lin­ist Brad Repp, who took part in the con­cert. “It’s a cool ef­fect... but there’s no way this could be the fu­ture,” he said. — AFP

This photo shows Ital­ian flutist An­drea Grim­inelli (left) and Ital­ian tenor An­drea Bo­celli (cen­ter) as they and The Lucca Phil­har­monic Or­ches­tra are con­ducted by ro­bot ‘Yumi’ for the first time at The Teatro Verdi in Pisa. — AFP photos

This photo shows mu­si­cians of The Lucca Phil­har­monic Or­ches­tra as they are con­ducted by ro­bot ‘Yumi’ for the first time at The Teatro Verdi in Pisa.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Kuwait

© PressReader. All rights reserved.