By now almost every robot fan on the planet must have seen the video clips of Honda's ASIMO conducting the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. But, just in case you haven't, we've included a copy of the video below.
Obviously ASIMO didn't 'conduct' the orchestra in the same sense that a human conductor would. The robot can't add any artistic interpretation, or do much more than just mimic and mechanically replay what it has been taught or programmed.
Still, it's realism is extremely impressive, to the point that both the orchestra and the audience respond to ASIMO as if he were a real conductor. In the end, that might be all that is important.
There is also a bit of irony involved in this particular performance given the sponsoring company (Honda) and the location (Detroit - aka Motor City). It helps that Honda is providing the Detroit Symphony Orchestra with a gift of $1 million to promote music education, which is definitely laudable.
The rationale involves the fact that the local public schools have been drastically reducing music programs because of severe budgetary pressures. Since public school budgets depend on the local economy and tax base, which in Detroit depends on the US automotive industry, to a large extent, is where the irony comes into play.
And, the irony is heightened by the fact that Japanese auto makers applied technology, like robots, to become the most competitive in the world, while their US counterparts floundered. The US education system, which created engineers that produced the first industrial robots like the Unimate, has now fallen drastically short and is being supplemented, if not rescued by, those that recognized the value of their creations, The fruits of those efforts, in the form of a highly advanced robot - ASIMO, are taking the lead in promoting very humanistic pursuits like music. Things have come full circle...