Honda's ASIMO Gives a Classic Performance

May 14, 2008
We’ve all seen musicians who seem to just be going through the motions. But the guest conductor at last night’s performance of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra might have been forgiven, even if his manners were, well, a bit mechanical. That’s understandable when you consider that ASIMO lacks the heart and soul of a true musician. In fact, he lacks a pulse. And that made the robot’s debut with the DSO all the more impressive.

ASIMO is nonetheless the highly talented humanoid robot developed by Honda. His name short for Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility. ASIMO shared Tuesday’s billing with the very human and very nuanced cellist Yo-Yo Ma, who came to Detroit to receive the Orchestra’s “Changing Lives Through Music” award, its highest honor, presented by DSO’s new director, Leonard Slatkin. For his part, ASIMO led the evening off with a charged-up version of “The Impossible Dream,” from the musical, “Man of La Mancha.”

While ASIMO still has a long way to go to catch up with Star Trek’s near-human android, Commander Data, there’s no way to avoid being awed by the evolution of the robot. Forget those welding wonders you see on the assembly line. ASIMO can walk, talk, and, now, conduct.

What’s next? It’s hard to say, though most impressively, ASIMO also is showing an uncanny ability to learn from his environment. He may still not be able to deliver the nuanced performance of a human conductor, never mind a Yo-Yo Ma, but at the rate he’s evolving, this humanoid robot might soon be typing some of our future blog items.

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