Human-Machine Duet Dances with Uncanny Emotion

For a while now, any talk about robots has quickly led to talk about how they’re going to be hacked to  kill their owners, programmed to take our jobs, or straight up summoned like a demon to annihilate us all. But you know what? Robots follow their programming ( just like us) and if you program a robot to dance flawlessly, that is exactly what it will do. Here, before your very eyes, watch as the demon–of dance!–is summoned on stage.

The human-machine dance duet, which comes via Laughing Squid, occurred at an April 2017 TED conference in Vancouver, BC. The dancer is Huang Yi, a Taiwanese choreographer who has an extraordinary life story, which he describes on his personal site. He notes in his background section that after seeing his parents attempt suicide due to financial difficulties, he “grew up knowing that [he] had to be a perfect child… to be like a robot.”

After becoming a stage performer, Yi, who developed an affinity for robots over the course of his youth, finally decided that he “wanted to find a way to dance with a robot.” After doing a bit of searching, he landed on an industrial robot made by the KUKA robotics corporation, which is actually German, but Chinese owned. TED notes in the description for the video that Yi conceptualized and programmed the KUKA robot to dance with him, despite the fact that regulations state that nobody can be in the area of the robot’s action while it’s active. Yi notes that he found some way around this, but doesn’t explain how.

For a brief glimpse of the behind-the-scenes work involved in setting up a dance with KUKA, check out the clip below. It shows how much time Yi spends playing with KUKA even when they’re not rehearsing. Which makes sense considering the fact that with KUKA, Yi ” wanted to remind us of our simplest hope… that we are all just grown up kids, but still kids.”

What do you think about this human-machine dance duet? Do a little dance with your keyboard partner in the comments below!

Images: TED

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