The Flawless Musician
Robo flautist or WF4IV (Waseda Flutist No. 4 Refined IV), as he likes to be called, is an amazing musician. Wearing just a dapper black hat, this bony, all metal flute player, plays complex scores perfectly and even interacts and engages with his audience.
But of course he does have a slight advantage over the rest of us - for the folks at Waseda University in Japan have re-engineered him four times until he is almost perfect. The new re-incarnation, which has come a long way from the first three versions (see picture above) wowed the robotic world and classical musicians everywhere, when it was recently unveiled at the BioRob conference in Arizona.
The latest version of this flute-playing robot has been carefully designed to mimic the expert air controls required of a professional flute player. He has perfectly flexible fingers, which can open and close all the flute keys. He has artificial lips, which are malleable (can be shaped), with pins embedded on them to help control their shape. Robo's tongue has also had a complete overhaul, to enable a double-tonguing technique, which flautists use to play higher speed songs.
The robot's lungs comprise of two airtight acrylic containers that are equipped with a bellow - a device that delivers pressurized air in a controlled quality to a controlled location. This allows Robo to simulate inhaling and exhaling like a human. Two cameras built into its eyes, allow it to interact with the audience and other musicians.
The main purpose behind perfecting this robot, whose first version was released in 1990, is to get it to a level where it gets sophisticated enough to be able to interact with humans, so that it can teach music to young children. While that may be a few versions away, this fourth re-incarnation certainly does a great job at playing "Flight of the Bumblebee", a classical song composed in the 1900's that is considered quite challenging by musicians of all ages.