ABB’s YuMi had its debut performance as a conductor at the gala of the first International Festival of Robots when it led the Lucca Philharmonic Orchestra in Verdi’s famous aria La Donna è Mobile from Rigoletto. The Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli and the soloist Maria Luigia Bors sang.
YuMi prepared thoroughly for its debut, training in advance with the orchestra’s conductor Andrea Colombini to learn the moves.
“First, my movements were captured with a process called ‘lead-through programming’, where the robot’s two arms are guided to follow my motions with great attention to detail,” wrote Colombini. “The second step involved fine-tuning the movements in ABB’s RobotStudio software.”
Overall, the conductor’s gestural nuances were fully reproduced. But whether YuMi will conduct concerts in the future is still an open question.
“Of course, YuMi is good when it comes to technique but is ultimately not gifted with human sensitivity. The robot uses its arms, but the soul, the spirit, always come from a human,” said Colombini.
He could nonetheless imagine YuMi being used to fill in at rehearsals when the conductor absent.
YuMi was not designed with musical performances in mind. The Zurich-based technology group ABB built the world’s first collaborative robot to collaborate with humans in several industrial processes, for example in the production of consumer electronics.