At a robotics showcase in Pisa, Italy on Sept. 12, a robot—for the very first time in history—conducted an entire orchestra. The dual-armed robot, which was designed by Swiss tech company ABB and is named YuMi (a word derived from, surprise, “you and me”), was “taught” all the movements by Lucca Philharmonic orchestra conductor Andrea Colombini, who directed its arms in rehearsals. It conducted three pieces at Tuesday’s show alongside Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli, including the famous “La donna e mobile” aria from Verdi’s Rigoletto.
“The gestural nuances of a conductor have been fully reproduced at a level that was previously unthinkable to me,” Colombini marveled in a blog post before the performance.
Automation has already come to the writing of music. While YuMi (which can also solve a Rubik’s cube and thread a needle) won’t ever replicate the nuanced spirit and technical spontaneity required from human conductors for world-class performances, it is still quite something to observe.