When humanity inevitably finds itself at war with our robot nemeses, we know one thing for sure: They'll have their own theme music.
Who's to blame? A music collective called Expressive Machines Musical Instruments
, who have used the well-intentioned-but-ultimately-damning-to-humanity fund-raising website Kickstarter
to raise over $8,000 to build the mechanized musicians
that will spur our robot opponents to war.
Until that happens, though, we've got the opportunity to listen to an entirely new field of music. While robotic music and electronic music might sound like they're pretty similar from a layman's perspective, Troy Rogers of EMMI explains that it's actually something really new.
"Electronic musicians manipulate digital and analog representations of sound," he says. "With robotic musical instruments, we manipulate the acoustic sound sources directly. With electronic music, the final destination is a set of inanimate loud speakers. In the acoustic world, there's always a physical gesture that gives rise to a sound."
Keep reading to find out why the EMMI robot musicians don't even warrant comparisons to the most famous of the robotic bands: the Chuck E. Cheese Band and Showbiz Pizza's Rock-afire Explosion.
"While animatronics is related to robotic musical instruments, our interest lies only with machines that actually make sound by physically manipulated acoustic sound sources," he says. "And the most effective way to do this is not to create a humanoid robot. If we're building a string instrument with 19 frets, we'll give the instrument 19 'fingers,' placed exactly where they need to be.
While that 19-fingered robot, MARIE, was funded by the Kickstarter campaign and is in progress, the bandmates -- PAM, CADI and MADI -- are already rocking:
CADI (Configurable Automatic Drumming Instrument)
CADI's strikers "can be configured to beat on any object," EMMI explains, meaning that the drums in the photo are the instrument, not the musician -- in fact, CADI is designed so that it can play an upside-down coffee can just as well as a bongo.
MADI (Multi-mallet Automatic Drumming Instrument)
Like CADI, MADI is a drummer. MADI features fifteen strikers made from rubber, felt, and hard plastic, as well as brushes. The strikers are all over the drum, positioned from the center to the rim, and the arms can strike simultaneously or individually. Unlike CADI, who's happy to play anything you put in front of it, MADI is mostly interested in beating on snare drums.
PAM (Poly-tangent Automatic (multi-)Monochord)
Not all of EMMI's robot performers are drummers. In fact, PAM was the first of the robots the group built, and opts for the strings. PAM is capable of varying pitches and timbres. PAM is controlled from a computer via USB, and uses multiple strings to create a richer timbre.