Wilfried Stoll and an engineering team from Festo in Germany have designed a robot that can compose and perform its own music after ‘listening’ to a melody. The robotic system, called Sound Machines 2.0, simulates two violins, a cello, a double bass and a viola with each using only one string. The string is loosened to change notes by an electric DGE drive unit that runs parallel to the string with a pneumatic cylinder that moves a wooden hammer which strikes the string to play the note.

 

To make music the robots first listens to a musician playing a melody over a MIDI capable synthesizer or xylophone that’s connected to a computer where modular synthesizer software processes the signal and sends it to the robots in real-time. The computer actually composes the music in its interpretation with the help of open-sourced software that’s programmed with special algorithms that are derived from John Conway’s Game of Life cellular automaton. Once the computer writes the music it is then pieced out to the robots accordingly. The music is heard through the robots own amplifiers and 40 watt speakers which makes the music sound more spatial with a better sense of depth, as opposed to using one speaker for all 5 robots. While the robots don’t exactly play like the string section of the New York Philharmonic, they do play pretty well even if it sounds like the music from TV show Buck Rogers.

 

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The band (via Festo)

 

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