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Robot String Quintet
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It's 's not only humans that can compose and perform music: a new installation created by Wilfried Stoll and a team from engineering firm Festo in Germany can compose a melody all by itself and perform it with five robotic string instruments.

The system writes music by listening to a musician play a tune on a xylophone or MIDI keyboard. By using rules derived from mathematician John Conway's Game of Life, a computer creates a reinterpretation of the melody, which it breaks down into different parts for each instrument. The processed signal is then transmitted to the robotic strings. "The individual acoustic robots are interlinked in such a way that they can listen to each other," write the team. "This constantly gives rise to new variations, which differ from the original theme while retaining the essence of the composition."

Although each robotic instrument only has one string, they mimic the sound of two violins, a cello, a viola and a double bass. An electric actuator moves up and down the string to produce the right pitch, like a human musician's left hand. The bow is replaced by a pneumatic cylinder that moves a hammer to vibrate the string.

The installation was designed to demonstrate how a manual system can be replaced by a network of autonomous robots. The team is looking at how to automate processes based on evolution theory to transform factories of the future.



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