Shimon, the first robot that composes and plays music

The first robot capable of writing and playing music is called Shimon. With his 4 arms, he plays marimba. And with his artificial neural networks, he is able to write his own songs.

Four arms mounted on a rail and a beating head: Shimon is a musician robot. He plays the marimba, this African rythm with resonators, complex for humans because he asks to handle 4 chopsticks with only 2 hands. But above all, the robot manufactured by the Georgia Tech Center for Music Technology is an original composer.

Thanks to deep learning, it can be inspired from its big database and creates its own melodies. “We give him the first 4 measurements and he does the rest,” says Mason Bretan, PhD student in music technology and co-inventor. Like any human composer, the robot is inspired by its musical culture. In the case of Shimon, it is a set of 5,000 songs and several thousand “music fragments and other notes”. His cultural background is mainly composed of classical music and jazz, on which a “neural network” makes its ranges. “It generates a fusion of these different styles,” continues Mason Bretan. “But Shimon can generate very different music.”

Technology at the service of music

Basically, the creator of mechanical musician, developed it to play in the company of other humans before learning to compose its own melodies. According to researchers, this is the first time that a robot uses deep learning to create music. This is an advantageous way of saying that the software to write the partitions and the machines to run them were separate. Examples ? With a skillful artificial intelligence mix, the JukeDeck online service sells music without copyright. And for good reason ! They are manufactured on demand by the program (Shimon), according to characteristics chosen by the user.

Do human musicians have to worry?

As to whether the musicians, like a certain number of other professionals, have to worry about their profession … David Cope, one of the pioneers of “musical intelligence”, is persuaded. But “the music that our computers compose is no less good than the music written by the greatest humans who inspire us.” Except that robots “work” usually much faster.

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