Now, thanks to the Takanishi Laboratory at Waseda University in Japan, robots have learned a new trick: how to jam.
Waseda University had created robots that play musical instruments before, but simply replaying a recorded piece wasn't enough. Researchers created an algorithm that allows the robot to combine visual cues from its cameras with audio cues from its mics to actually respond to a human partner. So far, the robot can only mimic what a human plays, but eventually, the researchers hope the robot can begin improvising and deviating from mimicry. One day, this bot will really swing.
In the video below, a human saxophone player plays a couple of notes, and the robot responds. The playback isn't perfect, and the robo-flutist hardly gives Roland Kirk a run for his money, but this is the first step towards a truly hep bot.