Android Conductor Makes Debut at National Theatre of Korea

Photo - Android Conductor Makes Debut at National Theatre of Korea
On June 30, a landmark event unfolded at the National Theatre of Korea as a robot named EveR 6 made its public debut, co-conducting the Korean National Symphony Orchestra. This marked the first time a robot has taken on the role of conductor in South Korea.
EveR 6, an android with a human-like face, torso, arms, neck, and head, is the creation of the Korea Institute of Industrial Technology (KITECH). To train the robot, KITECH employed motion capture technology. Sensors attached to the robot recorded the trajectory of a conductor's baton, and the robot was trained to monitor the speed of the baton’s movements.

A seasoned human conductor, Soo-Yeoul Choi, shared the stage with EveR 6. Choi commented on the challenges robots face in real-time interaction and communication, particularly in a musical setting. He pointed out that EveR 6 cannot listen, which is a crucial weakness. However, he was impressed by the android’s capacity for detailed movements.

During the concert, Choi and EveR 6 alternated in conducting pieces, with the robot leading three out of five compositions. They also jointly conducted one piece. Reflecting on the collaboration, Choi opined that the recital demonstrated the potential for robots and humans to complement each other rather than replace one another.

Audience reactions were mixed. One attendee, Lee Young-ji, acknowledged the robot's ability to maintain rhythm but felt it lacked the “breath” vital for conducting. Another concertgoer, Song In-ho, suggested that equipping the robot with AI could enable a more sophisticated performance by helping it understand and analyze the music.

EveR 6’s performance is part of a lineage of robots engaging in musical conductance. Honda’s Asimo conducted the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in 2008. YuMi, another robot, took the stage in Switzerland in 2017. Furthermore, a Japanese-designed robot named Alter 3 conducted an “android opera” in 2020.

EveR 6’s appearance heralds a new chapter in the convergence of technology and the arts, spotlighting the potentials and limitations of robotics in musical performance.

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