Dancing robot DJ to launch next year

Georgia Tech engineers have built a ‘musical companion’, and say it could be putting wedding DJs out of work by the end of next year.

Shimi recommends songs, dances to the beat and chooses music based on listener feedback. It’s essentially a docking station that can hook into the sensing and music generation capabilities of an Android phone.

“Shimi is designed to change the way that people enjoy and think about their music,” says its creator, Professor Gil Weinberg. He plans to unleash a trio of the robots today at the Google I/O conference in San Francisco. They’ll strut their stuff for guests, dancing in sync to music created in the lab.

By using the phone’s camera and face-detecting software, the robot can follow a listener around the room and position its ‘ears’, or speakers, for the perfect sound.

And, if the user taps or claps a beat, Shimi analyzes it, scans the phone’s musical library and immediately plays the song that best matches the suggestion. Once the music starts, Shimi dances to the rhythm.

“Many people think that robots are limited by their programming instructions,” says music technology PhD. candidate Mason Bretan. “Shimi shows us that robots can be creative and interactive.”

Future apps in the works will allow the user to shake their head in disagreement or wave a hand in the air to tell Shimi to skip to the next song or change the volume. Shimi will also be able to recommend new music based on the user’s song choices, and provide feedback on the music playlist.

Weinberg is now commercializing Shimi through a licensing agreement with Georgia Tech. A new start-up company, Tovbot, has been formed and Weinberg hopes to make the robot available to consumers by the 2013 holiday season.

“If robots are going to arrive in homes, we think that they will be these kind of machines – small, entertaining and fun,” he says. “They will enhance your life and pave the way for more sophisticated service robots in our lives.”