Raging Machines: Compressorhead, the First Robot Rock Band
The robot band cannot replicate the punk attitude of the Ramones or the soulfulness of B.B. King. Yet.
From 2011-2014, Daniel Honan was the Managing Editor at Big Think. Prior to Big Think, Daniel was Vice President of Production for Plum TV, a niche cable network he helped launch in 2002. The production team he oversaw won over two dozen Emmy awards. Daniel has created numerous shows and documentaries for television, and his film credits include Stealing the Fire, a documentary on the black market for nuclear weapons technology.
Follow Daniel on Twitter @DanielHonan
What if Angus Young had 78 fingers? He'd have better job security, for one thing, since this robot can match the AC/DC guitarist lick for lick. Fingers is the name of this robot, who was built from recycled scrap metal and has enough robotic digits to cover the entire fretboard.
Along with Bones, "the highest precision bass player in known existence," and drummer Stickboy, who plays a 14-piece kit, these robots make up the German all-robot heavy metal band Compressorhead. According to the band's website, which pokes fun at its human readers as "meatbags," the drummer, like the guitarist, "was created to exacting specifications. 4 arms, 2 legs, 1 head, no brain."
Compressorhead's performance is controlled by MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) and electro-pneumatic valves that are synchronized with the robots' head-banging movements. Their repertoire includes Motorhead‘s "Ace of Spades," Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love," and, appropriately enough, in the video below, Rage Against the Machine's "Bullet in the Head."
What's the Big Idea?
Music, one of mankind's most prized creations, has been both composed and performed by machines for some time. Ray Kurzweil, for instance, developed pattern-recognition software that analyzed and synthesized the works of classical composers like Chopin and Mozart, landing the young inventor on CBS's "I've Got a Secret" in 1965. On the show, Kurzweil performed a piece of music that was written by a computer. That launched a career in pattern-recognition interfaces, from character recognition to speech recognition.
So what will music sound like when the Singularity arrives?
We could create algorithms to lift the "exhausted" twelve-tone technique to new heights. The command and precision of nano-scale machines would make the flabby human fingers of Angus Young, not to mention the entire Berlin Philharmonic orchestra, sound like amateur hour.
Or, perhaps, robots are already surpassing humans with their technical prowess?
In a post on Compressorhead's site, the band tackles this question from a reader, offering this coy response to the meatbag: "I don't need to be smarter than you to play the guitar the way I do, and I don't need to be any smaller."
What's the Significance?
While Compressorhead dips us deeper into the uncanny valley, the robot band cannot replicate the punk attitude of the Ramones or the soulfulness of B.B. King. Yet.
As Ray Kurzweil told Big Think in a recent interview,
Sometimes people think that emotion and art are sort of sideshows to human intelligence and the real essence of intelligence is thinking logically. If that were true, computers are already smarter than we are because they're much better at logical thinking than we are. It's actually things like being funny, being sexy or expressing a loving sentiment, maybe in a poem or in a musical piece. That's the cutting edge of human intelligence. That's what today humans are still better than machines at. And the reason for it is we can think with our neocortex with a greater number of levels of this conceptual hierarchy.
Something like "she's pretty" is at a very high level in terms of the conceptual hierarchy. But we're adding the ability of computers to think in conceptual hierarchy, particularly as we can master the technique that's used in the human brain.
And so when the Singularity arrives, The Telegraph notes, there will be one obvious advantage to having robot rock stars: "Any budding rock managers wishing to manage the group can rest assured they are unlikely to spend much time throwing tantrums or bickering over royalties."
Here's the science of black holes, from supermassive monsters to ones the size of ping-pong balls.
- There's more than one way to make a black hole, says NASA's Michelle Thaller. They're not always formed from dead stars. For example, there are teeny tiny black holes all around us, the result of high-energy cosmic rays slamming into our atmosphere with enough force to cram matter together so densely that no light can escape.
- CERN is trying to create artificial black holes right now, but don't worry, it's not dangerous. Scientists there are attempting to smash two particles together with such intensity that it creates a black hole that would live for just a millionth of a second.
- Thaller uses a brilliant analogy involving a rubber sheet, a marble, and an elephant to explain why different black holes have varying densities. Watch and learn!
- Bonus fact: If the Earth became a black hole, it would be crushed to the size of a ping-pong ball.
Protected animals are feared to be headed for the black market.
In a breakthrough for nuclear fusion research, scientists at China's Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) reactor have produced temperatures necessary for nuclear fusion on Earth.
- The EAST reactor was able to heat hydrogen to temperatures exceeding 100 million degrees Celsius.
- Nuclear fusion could someday provide the planet with a virtually limitless supply of clean energy.
- Still, scientists have many other obstacles to pass before fusion technology becomes a viable energy source.
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.