Italy is famed for the high art of opera and the conductor holds the loftiest position within the accompanying orchestra. On Tuesday night, the honor of the maestro’s movements fell to a robot.
Swiss made two-armed robot YuMi made its conducting debut in the Tuscan city of Pisa, where it led an orchestra in a performance which included Verdi’s iconic ‘La donna e’ mobile,’ accompanied by Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli.
Bocelli was full of praise for the mechanical maestro. “It was so much fun to perform with YuMi, ABB’s collaborative robot. It showed that a robot could really conduct an orchestra, but only with the excellent work of very talented engineers and a real maestro. Congratulations to the team that pulled this off,” he said afterward.
YuMi led the orchestra in three of the 18 pieces, performed by the Lucca Philharmonic orchestra in the elegant Teatro Verdi, for an event to coincide with the First International Festival of Robotics held in the city.
Further to conducting Bocelli, he also conducted soloist Maria Luigia Borsi in a rendition of ‘O mio babbino caro’ from Puccini’s ‘Gianni Schicchi.”
Resident conductor Andrea Colombini, who helped train YuMi to mimic his movements, was delighted with his pupil’s performance.
“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.
Colombini taught YuMi everything it knows about the fine art, which saw the conductor hold out his arms in rehearsals, allowing the computer to memorize and replicate his deft movements.
Though the most sophisticated robot conductor to date, YuMi is not the first of its kind to attempt such a feat. Back in 2004, Sony’s QRIO robot also successfully conducted an entire orchestra, while in 2008, Honda’s Asimo conducted the Detroit symphony orchestra.