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Generation Robot: Co-existing with Robots

"It used to be the stuff of science fiction. But now, robots are all around us. They're working in our factories. They're in our schools. They're even in our hotel rooms," Grant Imahara, robot expert, and former MythBuster says as he introduces the Generation Robot video series.

This five-part series takes Grant around the world to explore the companies that are bringing humans and robots together. Part one takes him to Georgia Tech University Institute for Robotics and Intelligent Machines (IRIM) in Atlanta, the first school to offer an interdisciplinary Ph.D. program in robotics.

Robotics researchers, educators, and students from any department can participate in IRIM's mission to advance robotics activities at the university, which includes partnerships with industry and government. Grant speaks with Executive Director Magnus B. Egerstedt about an array of topics including the upsides and potential downsides of robotics. For example, should we be afraid of losing our jobs to robots or potentially facing an uprising? They also discuss the biggest obstacles in the next generation of robots, and Magnus reveals what he finds most exciting about his work.

Among IRIM's many achievements is the musical robot Shimon, which can play music and uses AI and Deep Learning to compose unique pieces. Grant gets to see a live performance by the marimba-playing robot, and you can hear its musical stylings throughout the video.

Gil Weinberg, director of Georgia Tech’s Center for Music Technology, created Shimon and is an advisor to Ph.D. student Mason Bretan, who has worked with Shimon for seven years. Mason gave Shimon music to listen to and learn from so it could eventually improvise, first with assistance from humans, and later independently. Researchers played nearly 5,000 songs for Shimon, from Beethoven to the Beatles to Lady Gaga to Miles Davis and more than 2 million motifs, riffs, and licks of music. Now researchers can give Shimon the first four measures of a song, and the robot can complete compositions with no other human intervention.

Bretan says this is the first time a robot has used deep learning to create music. It can even play harmonies and chords. Shimon thinks like a human musician: rather than focusing on the next note, it can see the bigger picture, that is, the overall composition.

Gil Weinberg’s lab has yielded many musical robot creations including a robotic prosthesis for a drummer, and a robotic third arm for use by any drummers.

Next up, Grant is heading to Augsburg, Germany to visit a lab that's building robots that help and collaborate with human workers; robots are our new co-workers.

This Sponsored Content series is brought to you by Mouser Electronics and our suppliers Analog Devices, Intel, Microchip and Molex.