Oct 212012

If you’re looking for a musical soul mate who understands your unique taste in tunes and rocks to your rhythms, you might soon be in luck. Scientists at Georgia Tech are about to commercialize Shimi, their dancing robot, an android designed to put glide in your stride. Ben Gruber reports.

(UPSOUND – ‘Shimi, do you have Guns and Roses?) Shimi the robot knows that Guns and Roses is one of Gil Weinberg’s favourite bands… In fact Shimi knows all about Weinberg’s taste in music because Weinberg programmed him that way. Gil Weinberg is the director for music technology at Georgia Tech University and Shimi is his latest creation. Not only does Shimi play music on demand, he dances to it as well. (SOUNDBITE) (English) GIL WEINBERG, DIRECTOR OF MUSIC TECHNOLOGY, GEORGIA TECH, SAYING: “By projecting the most basic elements of human interaction with music which is movement and dance and have a robot do it with you elevates it back, the whole interaction with music technology, to a very visceral and physical and engaging level.” Weinberg and his team say Shimi represents the next generation of speaker dock system…a kind of musical, robotic companion. At its core, Shimi’s software is based on a technology called Music Information Retrieval – which can analyse an audio signal and extract different components such as the beat and tempo – giving Shimi the ability to dance. (SOUNDBITE) (English) IAN CAMPBELL, GEORGIA TECH, SAYING: “Oh yeah, Shimi dances a lot better than me..I have a hard time keeping up.” Ian Campbell has been working with Weinberg to find a way to commercialize Shimi. (SOUNDBITE) (English) IAN CAMPBELL, GEORGIA TECH, SAYING: “The challenge with this project was taking something, taking robots that were a hundred thousand dollars plus in these academic research projects and getting it down to a cost point and a price point that you and I, the everyday consumer could purchase.” Weinberg and his team came to an answer by literally thinking outside the box….or outside the robot in this case. Instead of building Shimi a very sophisticated robot brain – the team transferred his intelligence to a smart phone. (SOUNDBITE) (English) GIL WEINBERG, DIRECTOR OF MUSIC TECHNOLOGY, GEORGIA TECH, SAYING: “Shimi’s brain is a cell phone. So it can be affordable. Once you plug the cell phone into Shimi it becomes smart. It’s connected to the cloud. It knows a lot about music. What’s hot today for example just by going through blogs and every song it knows what a beat and how to dance to.” Mason Bretan, one of Shimi’s developers, says the robot utilises all the sensors of a smart phone such us a microphone and camera and software such as voice recognition. With all of these tools, Shimi’s programming is designed to recognize patterns and study its owner – ultimately to better understand them. (SOUNDBITE) (English) MASON BRETAN, PHD STUDENT, GEORGIA TECH, SAYING: “So if I am communicating with Shimi and I say ‘Oh Shimi, I have had a bad day’ maybe it can understand that and respond musically in some way or gesturally in some way that responds to your mood.” The team are currently putting the finishing touches on Shimi and are in the process of raising money with an eye to mass production. At the right price, they hope Shimi could soon be dancing his way into living rooms all over the world.


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