I For One Welcome Our New and Old Robot Overlords

Posted by admin on December 6th, 2015 filed in Development, Java

At James Gosling’s Toy Show at JavaOne 2007, Sun Microsystems showcased the latest hip Java-programmable device, the Wowwee RS Media robot. Attendees were asked to program a little dance for the robot, and the coolest dance would be shown on stage on the final day. Maybe the best ones even got to keep the robot? It’s quite a while ago and I don’t recall the details.

In any case, during the conference, people were queuing with their dancing code to test it on the provided robots. Which of course limped along miserably after a week of hard dancing work, but hey, I can’t dance any better… :-D It sounded like a cool idea, but alas in reality, the demo was less awe-inspiring than expected. There was music. And Robots moved their arms. Out of sync with each other. Meh? Robots just don’t have any sense of rhythm! And you couldn’t program these to have one, for the life of it!

In that year, I was at JavaOne, mostly backstage. If I had been an attendee, I would have chosen the song “Love Don’t Roam No More” by Murray Gold from the Doctor Who soundtrack for this demo. Why? It’s a “crooner” — here a performance by Gary Williams, so you see what I mean:

The tune is electrifying, but at the same time, the performer does not have to dance in rhythm. Of course it would be best if the robot could subly tap or sway, but one can forgive a robot for not having fine-motor skills like that? Just slowly raising a finger up or pushing the open palm down, slowly nodding forward or looking up with the head leaning backwards, slowly turning the upper body from one side to the other looking around, pointing the palm to his chest at the word “I”, or pointing at the audience at the word “You” — any combination of these moves would be enough to pretend to be “dancing” to this song.

In this more recent video, some NAO robots dance Gangnam Style relatively well. But you notice how often the video had to be cut, sped up or slowed down, to make the movement just barely fit the rhythm:

Under Oracle, programmable robots (here another NAO) were recurring guests at JavaOne in recent years. So I still have a chance: Someone in San Franciso, please write a dance routine for “Love Don’t Roam” (the audio version sung by the The Divine Comedy guy) for next JavaOne? :-)

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