technology and the performing arts. dancing robots
SONY'S DANCING ROBOTS
It is a strange trait of human nature that we must re-make all things, animate and inanimate alike, into our own image. We seek a commonality by asking the non-human to do all manner of human movement with dance being one of the most desired. When a machine becomes more like us, we call it a robot.
The Japanese company, Sony has created has created the most advanced robot with a large number of different physical actions. It's strange flowing movement resembles Indian and Oriental dance, butoh, modern (modern being an attempt to broaden the vernacular of dance rather than a single form) and some kinds of break dancing.
Named QRIO (pronounced Curio), the robot became world famous after dancing in Beck's 2005 music video, Hell Yes. You can see the video at Beck's website. After the site loads, click on video's and then on Hell Yes. You can see a similar fan dance by clicking on the Google video below. Although grainy and with less artistic intent, you get a longer look at the robots.
The concept for the robot's leg action may be similar to the self-balancing technology designed by Dean Kamen for the Segway and the stair-climbing non-humanoid IBOT (Website). QRIO's walking, jumping, running and dancing control technology allows its feet to slightly leave the floor at the same time so although a capriole is in the future , a low leap or sissonne is within the machine's capabilities.
More links to Sony dancing robots
More of Sony's Dancing Robots (If it doesn't play, click in the small box with the QR10 throwing a ball, watch that video and then click on the small box with the 2 golden robots)
You can see more clips (you must have Real Player) and a discussion of the robot, QRIO, at QRIO's section on the Sony website.
Is it a robot or a human? What looks like the same kind of robot, dances alongside a Japanese woman at Confused.com
science and the performing arts. dance and genetics
MORE DANCING ROBOTS
Sony's QR10 would easily beat all other humanoid robots in a dance contest, but other companies and engineers are working on robotic dance as well. Kosuge and Wang Laboratory at Tohoku University in Japan has developed the PBDR (Partner Ballroom Dance Robot). The robot moves on wheels.
In the manner of mad scientists everywhere, K&W labs created her with insane Barbie-esque proportions. Available in garish pink or blue, she could easily have found work in the SF cult film, The Fifth Element. The scientists claim that they will make a male model, but clearly their heart is not in it. Their girl robot, responds to the position of her male partner through upper-body sensors which then predict her partner's next steps - something QRIO cannot do. (Since there are roughly 10 women to every man in ballroom dancing, the development of a woman partner is not just un-necessary it is evil.)
You can find out more about this project and download a 2005 demonstration video at the K&W website or view a photograph at Engaget.
Way back in 2004 (which in robot technology is practically the dark ages) and much further down the evolutionary ladder, dance teacher and MIT graduate student, Sommer Gentry programed a robotic arm to lindy hop with her. She says "...how do you dance well with someone? It would be great to give people mathematical and engineering proofs of why they have to dance the way I say. While there has been some scientific investigation of dance - on the physics of ballet, for instance - what's missing is any sort of partner-dancing aspect. Partner dancing involves both controlling your own body's physical properties and communicating information to the other person.". The entire article is worth reading. See it at MIT News.
Finally, there is robotic technology available to the (computer literate) public. Invented by a NASA scientist and manufactured by WowWee, the robot, Robosapien has his own website and an Open Source code website - Robosapien Dance Machine - devoted to voice activating software. Or as the website says, "Robosapien Dance Machine is a free open source software program that unleashes your Robosapien's funky inner soul!" The software allows you to control your robot with just your voice. If you have programing skills, you can use the source code to create new movement patterns for your robot to dance. If you are fairly computer savvy, you can use the already existing scripts with your robot. In both cases, you are, in effect, a choreographer and the robot is your dancer!