Robot takes command of orchestra and Andrea Bocelli in Italy

The robot YuMi conducting the Lucca Philharmonic Orchestra at a concert alongside Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli at the Verdi Theatre in Pisa Italy

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Though the most sophisticated robot conductor to date, YuMi is not the first of its kind to attempt such a feat.

"Further to conducting Bocelli, he also conducted soloist Maria Luigia Borsi in a rendition of "O mio babbino caro" from Puccini's 'Gianni Schicchi". Instead, this event was to show exactly how well humans and robots can work together. "It was so much fun to perform with YuMi, ABB's collaborative robot. Congratulations to the team that pulled this off", he said afterwards.

"One of the biggest barriers in robotics is not the physical hardware [but] the engineering that it takes to teach a robot what to do", said ABB's chief executive, Ulrich Spiesshofer, in comments included in a company-produced YouTube video. While YuMi is able to follow a strict pre-programmed set of movements, it can not improvise or interact with the musicians, according to the AFP article.

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Italy is famed for the high art of opera and the conductor holds the loftiest position within the accompanying orchestra.

Maestro Andrea Colombini, director of the Lucca Philharmonic Orchestra, who helped prepare YuMi for the event, was excited by YuMi's sophisticated technology.

YuMi achieved a very high level of fluidity of gesture, with an incredible softness of touch and expressive nuancing.

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YuMi's performance was developed in two steps.

The process was recorded and software used to fine-tune its movements and synchronise them to the music before YuMi was ready to lead the orchestra. With ABB's technical expertise, the lead-through programming let Colombini focus on doing what he does best, bringing the music to life.

The performance was a world first by a robotic conductor and celebrated Italy's "First International Festival of Robotics", which kicked off Friday. In other words, the robot can move its arms in the appropriate ways at the appropriate times within the aria, as previously instructed by a human conductor. The robot uses its arms, but the soul, the spirit, always come from a human.

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