Thursday, April 18, 2024

EveR 6 robot debuts as an orchestra conductor in Seoul

An android robot, EveR 6, made its debut as an orchestra conductor before a sell-out crowd at the National Theater of Korea, showcasing significant progress in robotics and music.

Designed by the Korea Institute of Industrial Technology (KITECH), the 1.8-meter-tall (5’10”) robot took center stage alongside conductor Soo-Yeoul Choi to co-conduct the mesmerizing performance of “Absence.” The robot guided more than 60 musicians from the National Orchestra of Korea who were playing traditional Korean instruments.

The EveR 6 robot, with a humanoid face, first bowed to the audience and began waving its arms to control the tempo of the live performance. It successfully guided the compositions, both independently and in collaboration with a human maestro who was standing next to it for about half an hour, entertaining the more than 950 audience members present there.

The robot-guided three out of five pieces and collaborated with Choi for the fifth and final composition performed on the evening.

“I came here worried whether this robot could pull this off without a glitch,” Kim Ji-min, a 19-year-old college student, who had come to see the robot’s performance. “But I found it to be in great harmony with the musicians… It felt like a whole new world for me.”

Throughout the performance, EveR 6’s blue eyes stared at the musician unblinkingly, only nodding its head in time to the music. EverR 6 also showcases humanoid features showing the face, torso, two robotic arms, neck, and head, mesmerizing the crowd with precise movements and synchronization. The robot is programmed using cutting-edge “motion capture” technology to replicate the movements of a human conductor.

However, the machine cannot listen or improvise in real-time. Conductor Soo-Yeoul Choi acknowledged the complex challenges of real-time interaction and communication for robots, particularly in a musical context.

The harmonious collaboration between humans and machines left the audience in awe and thinking about future possibilities. “It was a recital that showed that (robots and humans) can co-exist and complement each other, rather than one replacing the other,” Choi said after the concert.

EveR 6’s developers are currently working on enabling the robot to make gestures that are not pre-programmed.