Shimi Will Now Sing to You in an Adorable Robot Voice

IEEE Spectrum Robotics Channel 

Human-robot interaction is easy to do badly, and very difficult to do well. One approach that has worked well for robots from R2-D2 to Kuri is to avoid the problem of language--rather than use real words to communicate with humans, you can do pretty well (on an emotional level, at least) with a variety of bleeps and bloops. But as anyone who's watched Star Wars knows, R2-D2 really has a lot going on with the noises that it makes, and those noises were carefully designed to be both expressive and responsive. Most actual robots don't have the luxury of a professional sound team (and as much post-production editing as you need), so the question becomes how to teach a robot to make the right noises at the right times. At Georgia Tech's Center for Music Technology (GTCMT), Gil Weinberg and his students have a lot of experience with robots that make noise of various sorts, and they've used a new deep learning-based technique to teach their musical robot Shimi a basic understanding of human emotions, and how to communicate back to those humans in just the right way, using music.