In the 2004 film adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s story collection I, Robot, Detective Del Spooner (played by Will Smith) defensively asks the intelligent android Sonny, “Can a robot write a symphony?”
Sonny replies, “Can you?”
Well, according to a report in Gazeta Wyborcza, one enterprising student in Krakow may have brought us a bit closer to that reality.
Wojciech Świtała, as part of his studies at AGH University of Science and Technology, has programmed a robot to accompany him on piano while he plays the violin.
Staszek, the name of the industrial robot originally designed by Mitsubishi, can use his mechanical arm to play melodies on a keyboard. He is capable of striking two keys at once with his 3D-printed two-pronged “fingers” and can even slam the cymbal, as you’ll see in the video below.
Finally, at the end, Staszek can bow.
The machine is following a program written over a semester by Świtała for his senior thesis. Users can click piano keys on a computer screen, and Staszek will “remember” the song and play it back on command.
It makes sense for Świtała to choose such a project. Before AGH, he studied at a music school and decided to combine his two big interests.
In an interview with LoveKrakow, Świtała noted two limitations of Staszek: his relatively slow speed and loud motor noise.
But this, of course, is just Staszek version 1.0. In response to widespread interest, Świtała says, there may be a bigger future for the robot.
For now, though, the programmer is just focused on passing his exams.
Below you can see him playing with Staszek, as he will before an academic committee at his thesis defense. Call it “Violin & Piano Opus for Two” – or should that be “…for 10“?
Agata Pankow contributed to the research for this article.