Honda robot conducts itself with aplomb

THE lights dimmed, the sold-out hall grew hushed and out walked the conductor — shiny, white and 4ft 3in.

ASIMO, a robot designed by car giant Honda, met its latest challenge: Conducting the Detroit Symphony in a performance of The Impossible Dream from Man Of La Mancha.

“Hello, everyone,” ASIMO said to the audience in a childlike voice, then waved to the orchestra.

As it conducted, it perfectly mimicked the actions of a conductor, nodding its head at various sections and gesturing with one or both hands. ASIMO took a final bow to enthusiastic shouts from the audience.

“It is absolutely thrilling to perform with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. This is a magnificent concert hall,” ASIMO said.

Later, cellist Yo-Yo Ma joined ASIMO on stage to receive an award for his efforts in music education. Ma bent to ASIMO’s height and shook the robot’s hand.

Honda spokeswoman Alicia Jones said it was the first time ASIMO had conducted an orchestra, and it may be the first time any robot has conducted a live performance. ASIMO stands for Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility.

ASIMO has its limits though. ASIMO’s engineers programmed the robot to mimic Charles Burke, the Detroit Symphony’s education director, as he conducted the piece in front of a pianist about six months ago. But it cannot respond to the musicians.


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