Robots and Humans Dancing Together – The World is Getting Weirder (video)

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The HRP-4C shows off her moves with her more human friends.

Visitors to the recent Digital Content Expo in Tokyo got to see one of the more unusual performances of their lives: a robotic woman dancing and singing with her human counterparts to a choreographed pop routine. The HRP-4C, a bot made to resemble a typical 19-29 year old Japanese woman, is a product of Kawada and AIST that was released early last year and has been taught how to strut, dance, and sing. HRP-4C has a human-like face that many will find creepy, and her moves are a little stilted on the dance floor. Still, watching the robot perform as part of a real human dance troupe is pretty amazing. Check it out for yourself in the videos below. Her feet don’t come far off the ground, but the HRP-4C is taking a big leap into the world of entertainment.

Kawada’s HRP line of bots is constantly pushing its limits in terms of fluid motion and control. The HRP-4C impressed us with its debut last year, and was one of our Best Robots of 2009. While you’d never mistake one for a real human, the HRP robots all can move with an ease that puts them near the forefront of their field. And they’re actually about the same size of a human (five foot or so), unlike Honda’s ASIMO. That life-like scale really comes in handy when you want to blend into a dance company:

The next video shows the exact same routine, shot from a different angle. Only watch if you’re into choreography and like to see different perspectives on the same dance.

The real story isn’t how smoothly the HRP-4C moves, however, it’s that the robot can interact with humans for entertainment in a way that’s watchable. Although her part is simplified, the HRP-4C is performing real choreography. The routine was created by performer/dancer SAM, a member of the band TRF - a well known name in Japan and abroad. The HRP-4C’s singing voice is produced via Yamaha’s Vocaloid software, which is becoming a new standard for synthetic music, and is used in popular songwriting software the world over. This is real art. A little basic, perhaps, but real art. As robots improve in quality, we’ll only see more of this blending of machines and humans for performance. Previously, and even now, such dancing displays have been appreciated more for their novelty than their quality. Eventually, however, we’ll have robots that can dance and sing with humans on equal footing. Keep up the good work, HRP-4C, in another decade you could be headlining with robot Beyonce.

[image credits: Pink Tentacle]

[sources: PinkTentacle
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Discussion — 17 Responses

  • than October 19, 2010 on 6:14 pm

    It’s not weird. It’s boring.

    If the robot could dance like Gene Kelley then it would be not boring, bu tonly for the technical merrits.

  • Joey1058 October 19, 2010 on 6:54 pm

    @ than: They’re working on it. I remember when this robot was introduced a little over a year ago, it could just barely walk. It was pretty much on the same par as any other bot in the labs. I would dare say that Asimo could do a better job of walking then. And now it can shuffle, sway, and sidestep as well as any six year old child, and not fall over!

    I saw the first video via technovelgy.com. I’m glad there was a second video shot from the side. This actually shows how stable the HRP-4C is. I see very little front to back wobble in it’s performance. I think Gene Kelly would have loved to choreograph a dance for this bot!

    • than Joey1058 October 19, 2010 on 8:37 pm

      I get the impression you haven’t spent much time around actual six year olds and that you took my initial evaluation somehow personally.

      This is a minorly novel incremental improvement but having it dance around was just boring.

      • Joey1058 than October 20, 2010 on 11:30 am

        Well, I didn’t think my comment was that harsh, but those are the hazards of the internet.

  • Svrdlu October 19, 2010 on 7:48 pm

    Yet another great technical feat.

    Sets the stage for clean retro entertainment in all the rest homes when the great grey wave hits. Dance Bieberbot dance! While all the kids in level 11 cultures are going clockwork orange outside us drugged up retirees can relive the good old days.

    It would be so much more entertaining if all the ‘backing’ dancers got out rocks and branches and smashed the robot to bits at the end.

  • AshleyZ October 19, 2010 on 7:51 pm

    I don’t think I’ve seen a direct, side-by-side comparison like this before.

    This robot shows impressive fluidity and more moves than biped robots are usually called on to perform, but it also shows how far there is still to go. The robot is painfully slow and limited compared to the humans, barely lifting its feet off the ground, and making small hand and foot gestures.

    Another video featuring HRP-4C ‘singing’ came out a while ago, although I didn’t see it on Singularity Hub, and it also showed both impressive developments and sad inadequacies (specifically an inability to press its lips together). It’s like seeing airplanes in 1905 – amazing, but still so far to go…

  • captain October 19, 2010 on 10:52 pm

    Awesome!

  • Colin October 22, 2010 on 8:49 am

    I’m guessing she can do the robot like nobody’s business…

  • John November 10, 2010 on 6:29 am

    She dances like she has lead feet.