Researching to the Beat of a Different Drummer
Atlanta (March 30, 2006) — Music may not be the first thing you think about when you think of Georgia Tech, but technology may very well come to mind. Researchers in the Music Department are developing a robot that plays the drums. The robotic percussionist, developed by Director of Music Technology Gil Weinberg and graduate students Scott Driscoll and Travis Thatcher, is the result of research that crosses several disciplines and combines Weinberg's passions for music and technology to produce new and innovative music.
The research has created a harmony of sorts for Weinberg, who started the research about a year ago.
"I was very interested in exploring the concept of machine musicianship," said Weinberg. "What we're trying to do is bring together technological innovations and artistic creativity to create new music. Haile, the robot, allows us to create music that has never been played before. It can play differently from the way a human plays because it uses computational power and numerical algorithms to listen, analyze and improvise."
By combining the ability to improvise algorithmically and having different physical limitations than a human, Haile can create a novel kind of human-machine musical interaction, leading to new music. Haile's uniqueness lies in the robot's ability to play acoustically with a vibrant sound while combining the computer capability of utilizing complex algorithms.
Weinberg was inspired to bring robotics and music together because he noticed that computerized music is usually played through speakers. He says that the speakers leave the music flat, meaning that an audience or member of the music ensemble can't feel it's full acoustic richness or get visual cues to play along with it.
Georgia Tech's Music Department is part of the College of Architecture, which has fostered some unique partnerships that have allowed the robot to grow. Weinberg teamed up with students in mechanical engineering, computer science, as well as industrial design to help create a new look for Haile that they continue to refine.
"Graduate students Scott Driscoll, Mitch Parry, and Clint Cope have done a tremendous job at helping me design a robot that is quite unique," said Weinberg. "Our being part of the College of Architecture has allowed us to create this robot in a way that we wouldn't be able to do without their help. We were able to use the Advanced Wood Products Lab to create a robot with a wooden exterior. We wouldn't have been able to do that at another university."
Weinberg has been working on the robot for a little over a year. The latest prototype includes a second arm that can produce louder hits and larger, more visible motions. The new motor-operated arm can also alter the surface of the drum as the first arm strikes, providing more subtle control of timbre.
Haile has been recently featured in invited and juried concerts in Barcelona and Jerusalem, and is scheduled for future concerts in cities such as Paris, Bremen, Boston and Atlanta.
Haile Project Web Site
Georgia Tech Music Technology Group
Gil Weinberg Faculty Web Site
Georgia Tech Music Department
Georgia Tech College of Architecture
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