Home > Blog Post, Robot > Virtuosabots: all-singing, all-dancing robots

Virtuosabots: all-singing, all-dancing robots

The HRP-4, ‘Diva-Bot’ robot singer, which premiered at the CEATEC Japan 2010 trade show in October 2010, is another in a series of virtuosabots. Virtuosabots deliver uncannily human performances, always mimicking a prized human talent: trumpet playing, violin playing or dancing to Bolero.

The robot designers often claim to aspire to create emotional resonances. For example, the YouTube text for the dancing robots claims: ‘This also marks the first time robots have supported an artistic field evoking emotions.’ It is an industry reaction to the accusation that their progeny are too robotic.

Virtuosabots extend a long tradition of automata that perform for human amusement. Performance sometimes makes the performer culturally admirable (Hollywood stars, and the high tech robot), but at other times being a performer requires a symbolism of deference and self-deprecation. The court clown, or the dancing ‘negro’ (see this clip of an early 20th century gramophone automaton toy) cast a perceived threat to the establishment as ridiculous and servile. Virtuosabots are not necessarily framed as ridiculous, but they have something of the function of a cultured native, in the mould of the early indigenous Australian Bennelong who was kidnapped and enculturated. These robots are natives from a perceived future. They make something exotic and potentially threatening feel safer and more familiar. They open communication to the non-human.

Categories: Blog Post, Robot
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