Photo: Takanishi Lab
Atsuo Takanishi wants to build an entire humanoid robot orchestra. Takanishi, a professor of mechanical engineering at Waseda University, in Tokyo, started with a flutist.
From John Boyd's "This Robot Toots Its Own Flute" story in Spectrum:
Getting the robot to produce a melody turned out to be a monumental task. First, the researchers worked with professional players to create a performance index of what constitutes the best flute sounds. They translated these sounds into mathematical formulations, to which the robot refers. The researchers then programmed the robotâ''s organs to create a sound. Once a sound was produced, they used the parameters controlling the organs that produced the sound as a base and then adjusted those parameters repeatedly until the sound improved and eventually approximated a target sound in the performance index.
â''We had to teach it everything,â'' says Takanishi. â''The different positions of the lips and fingers, the strength of the air pressure, everything. There are any number of parameters [making it] almost impossible to engineer.â'¿ It was a very slow process.â''
The result? See for yourself -- here's a video of the bot in action: http://spectrum.ieee.org/ns/video/flutebot.mp4