Music and robots: The interface between technology and creativity
Of all living musicians, perhaps none is better known for the exploration of the intersection between music and technology than Nigel Stanford. His use of the principles of the scientific field of Cymaticsto manipulate water, fire and lightning into intricate living patterns using only sound waves – best exemplified by his music video of the same name – garnered over 15 million views on YouTubeand countless other interactions and discussion online.
Robots playing instruments in Stanford's newest music video
In fact, the exploration of how human creativity can be enhanced in completely novel ways with technology is what has defined Stanford’s career as a musician in the digital Age.
And for the past 3 years Stanford has been at it again, this time using KUKA robots as the medium through which he explores technological creativity – culminating in the tour de force video for the title track from his new album AUTOMATICA – featuring robots playing instruments, and ultimately destroying them, in a musical parable for the digital age. “Topics of AI, the singularity, robots and automation are always on people’s minds these days – and AUTOMATICA is the musical expression of these conversations. Really, the question is ‘What does it mean to be human in the digital age?’ Also, watching a robot make a piano explode is pretty cool,” says Stanford.
"For me this was a labor of love, exploring how technology is changing everything in our lives, affecting how humans interact with each other and what creativity means as more and more processes become automated." (Nigel Stanford)
Experts from Kuka Robotics support with programming
Along the path to creating AUTOMATICA, Stanford enlisted the help of a cast of characters to realize his vision, including the experts at KUKA Robotics and KUKA partner Andy Flessas (AKA andyRobot).
Stanford worked closely with Flessas to program the robots and bring the high-tech musicians to life. Flessas is well known in the entertainment industry as the go-to guy for using robotics in creative endeavors – with previous experience helping major stars like Bon Jovi, Lady Gaga, Deadmau5 and others to incorporate robotics into their acts. His Robot Animator plug-in for Maya allows humans to impose their creativity on KUKA robots without needing to learn how to program or code them.
Great rush on robotic's potential
“We’re facing a paradigm change in the world of robotics,” says Flessas. “The cost for robotic systems has come down and the ability to program them has gotten much easier over the past several years – to the point that now we’re seeing a perfect storm of potential for robots to be used in creative endeavors to great effect. Working with Nigel on this project was a further exploration of how creativity can be enhanced by technology. Making AUTOMATICA was certainly a challenging project, but the result is amazing.” Entertainment industry as market for automation
“You now see KUKA robots being used in amusement parks, music videos, movie production, cruise ships, food service and many other applications that would be considered a form of entertainment,” says Mike Beaupre, Entertainment Market Sales Director for KUKA. “We’ve worked with Andy for years and have really enjoyed our relationship with Nigel. We’re proud to have supplied the robots and technical known-how to help make AUTOMATICA a reality. More and more, these kinds of creative endeavors are driving growth for KUKA – and beyond that, in many ways they are a service for humanity that goes beyond simply being cool. They highlight the fact that humans are the future of robotics, and that making more space for human creativity is one major benefit of automation.”