Back in August, the Chinese cybernetics company Xiamoi announced plans to build a bipedal humanoid drummer. Initially, it seemed like a strange choice — of all the things you could do with an android, why drums? They're loud and obnoxious, and also we've already replaced with plenty of human drummers with 808s and free AI MIDI drummer softwares.
But hey, they went and did it anyway. You can see the results above. It's no Dave Grohl, but it can hold a beat. To celebrate, a rep from Xiamoi also spoke with IEEE Spectrum to give a little more background on the motivation here:
[People] are more interested in seeing humanoid robots doing things that humans cannot easily do. Honestly speaking, it's pretty difficult to find such scenarios, since we know that the first prototype of CyberOne is far behind humans.
But one day, one of our engineers who had just begun to play drums suggested that drumming may be an exception. She thought that compared to rookie drummers, humanoid robots have more advantages in hand-foot coordinated motion and rhythmic control. We all thought it was a good idea, and drumming itself is super cool and interesting. So we choose drumming to demonstrate our research.
Drumming requires CyberOne to coordinate whole-body motions to achieve a fast, accurate, and large range of movement. We first want to find the limit of our robot in terms of hardware and software to provide a reference for the next-generation design. Also, through this research, we have formed a complete set of automatic drumming methods for robots to perform different songs, and this experience also helps us to more quickly realize the development of other musical instruments to be played by robots.
It sounds like the company also hit a few bumps in making sure that the robo-drummer was coordinated enough to stretch its limbs across the full drum set without colliding itself. To be fair: I have that problem when I play drums as well. Robots — they're just like us!
Xiaomi's Humanoid Drummer Beats Expectations [Evan Ackerman / IEEE Spectrum]