The Shanghai World Expo got a special treat this past week in the Japanese pavilion, when Toyota's famed violin-playing robot thrilled the crowd with a rendition of the Chinese folk song Mo Li Hua (jasmine flower). The bipedal artificial violinist hasn't been seen much since its debut back in 2007. It was one of several Toyota bots playing musical instruments at the 2010 Expo, but this line of "Partner Robots" is under development to eventually serve as personal assistants - being a musician is just a side line. You can see a great clip of the Toyota bot playing Mo Li Hua after the break, as well as its original rendition of Pomp and Circumstance from 2007.
The violin-playing Toyota robot doesn't give the most virtuoso performance, but it's not supposed to. Toyota seems to be using the musical performance as a test and demonstration of the robots versatile movements and precision. Along with its brass band brethren (shown here in a low quality video from the Expo) the violin bot is likely to become a healthcare worker aimed at assisting the elderly. An aging global population has prompted other major machine/robot manufacturing companies to enter this market. We've recently seen some promising new healthcare bots from Panasonic, and iRobot has made noises about starting up a large project to that end. Whether or not Toyota's Partner Robots, or their competitors, will actually become functioning nurse-like assistants is yet to be seen, but I anticipate major growth in this field of robotics in the years ahead. So good luck to you, violinist robot, you may soon be putting down your instrument and picking up an elder's groceries. If that doesn't work out, let me know. I have the perfect band for you to join.