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The conductor was, um, robotic

May 15, 2008|From the Associated Press

The lights dimmed, the sold-out hall grew hushed and out walked the conductor -- shiny, white and 4 feet, 3 inches tall.

ASIMO, a robot designed by Honda Motor Co., met its latest challenge Tuesday evening: Conducting the Detroit Symphony in a performance of "The Impossible Dream" from "Man of La Mancha."

"Hello, everyone," ASIMO said to the audience in a childlike voice, then waved to the orchestra. As it conducted, the robot perfectly mimicked the actions of a conductor, nodding its head at various sections and gesturing with one or both hands. ASIMO took a final bow to enthusiastic shouts from the audience.

Later, cellist Yo-Yo Ma joined ASIMO onstage to receive an award for his efforts in music education. Ma bent and shook the robot's hand.

ASIMO, which stands for Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility, has its limits. Engineers programmed the robot to mimic Charles Burke, the Detroit Symphony's education director, as he conducted the piece in front of a pianist about six months ago. But it can't respond to the musicians if they speed up or slow down.

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