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Robot conducts Detroit orchestra
by Staff Writers
Detroit, Michigan (AFP) May 14, 2008

High tech met high art late Tuesday when a robot conducted the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

It was the first time an orchestra was handed over to a robot and the diminutive, spaceman-like machine got rave reviews.

Both the audience and performers burst into applause after Honda's ASIMO (Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility) robot led the symphony in a performance of "The Impossible Dream" ahead of a sold-out concert featuring cellist Yo-Yo Ma.

"It's exciting to see. The technology is mind boggling," said bass trombone player Randall Hawes, who has played with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra for 22 years.

"I was struck by how fluid the walk was when it came out and how still it was."

But Hawes doesn't think the diminutive white robot will replace human conductors any time soon.

"We react to it. It doesn't react to us," he said. "That's the only thing that's missing. We knew when it was going to stop so we stopped."

The symphony extended the invitation to ASIMO earlier this year after Honda donated one million dollars to establish The Power of Dreams Music Education Fund, which will support music education to underserved children around Detroit.

Honda has 25 ASIMO-type robots serving as ambassadors around the world and hopes to one day use the robots to help people confined to wheelchairs.

Commercialization of an ASIMO-like machine "is closer than you think," said Honda spokesman Jeffrey Smith.

"It's an incredibly sophisticated and complex machine."


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