The New Zealander has just released an incredible video showing a band of industrial robots knocking out a tune on an array of instruments. And in true rock ’n’ roll style, they even smash them up at the end.
The track, Automatica, is from Stanford’s forthcoming album, Automatica — Robots vs. Music. Record label Sony Music says the work “raises the question, just how close are we to fully AI robots performing instruments and blending in with normal, everyday human activity?” Pretty close, according to Stanford’s efforts.
Stanford, whose music has been picked up in the past by both NASA and the European Space agency, came up with the idea for his bot band in 2015 following the success of his groundbreaking Cymatics – Science vs. Music video featuring an exhilarating blend of music, art, and physics.
Using several machines from industrial robotics systems company Kuka, Stanford set about programming them to play the drums, piano, and guitar — as well as perform a few turntable tricks. The musician shut himself away in his garage for a month, and through trial and error gradually learned how to get the robots to produce the kind of sounds he wanted.
Stanford made a note of seeing the project through by himself, without any outside help.“”I do all of the programming,” Stanford said, adding, “I think it’s important to come at the scientific aspects from the perspective of a musician.”
The video is beautifully shot, though toward the end the robots pull a Frankenstein move and turn on Stanford, smashing up the instruments in spectacular style — though not before tossing the Kiwi a guitar so he can close out the track.
Keen to see more? Then check out this short behind-the-scenes video showing Stanford in the early stages of creating his robot band.
Other bands consisting entirely of automatons include, for example, Z-Machines. Created by a University of Tokyo IT professor and a mechanical designer in 2013, the Japanese three-bot band featured a drummer with six arms and a guitarist with 78 fingers.
Another robot group, Compressorhead, was created in the same year by Berlin-based artist Frank Barnes together with Markus Kolb and Stock Plum. Also made up of three androids, Compressorhead is still going strong and has a new album out in November.