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a kineto-acoustic performance
based on autonomous soccer robots of the Robo Cup Mid Size League, which are equipped with special developed sound modules for creating a complex sounding structure.

festival „inhuman music – compositions by machines, animals and randoms“ in the House of World Cultures in Berlin, February 21 - 24, 2013

audioinformatic expert: André Bartetzki

Robo Cup Teams
Techunited / Technische Universität Eindhoven (Netherlands)
Carpe Noctem / Universität Kassel

Video of the performances at

Ralf Hoyer / André Bartetzki / Carpe Noctem / Techunited: MID SIZE ROBO SOCCER MUSIC from Ralf Hoyer on Vimeo.

Presentation on ArtsIT 2013 in Milano at

The development of man-machine interaction is becoming increasingly important. There is extensive research in the field of neuroscience with the goal of emulating human behavior in the behavior and communicative ability of autonomous robots. This is particularly the case in areas such as service robotics, geriatric care, and search and rescue. The goal is to increase the acceptance among people who use these technologies, in order that the technologies can be viewed as a helpful partner. However, we can also observe, time and again, that people develop emotional ties to robots that behave independently and intelligently. This is because the existence of quasi-human behavior also suggests the presence of human feelings.

The resulting conflicts and misunderstandings are the basis for an extensive musical/theatrical project with robots and humans, which will be implemented progressively over the coming years.

The project “MID SIZE ROBO SOCCER MUSIC” will take one scenic idea from this music theater project and expand it into an independent kineto-acoustic performance for a prestigious international art festival.

Every sound, every tone is the result of motion. The sounds and tones generated by our everyday high-tech environment may be largely irrelevant, often annoying, and the same time inescapable. Nevertheless, in the acoustic arts, sound is the objective of every motion. It is, in principle, immaterial whether the tone generator is the vibrating string of a violin or a loudspeaker diaphragm.

But there are links between sound and motion at a more fundamental level, for instance with electro-acoustic feedback. In this case, the frequency of the resulting feedback tone is determined, essentially, by the distance between microphone and loudspeaker (see, for instance, Steve Reich’s Pendulum Music, 1968)

With this in mind, we had the idea of using several independent robots rapidly moving amongst themselves to generate a fine, polyphonic latticework of sound. One might use robots such as those found in the Middle Size League of the RoboCup Initiative. The sound is audibly linked to the motions of the robots, giving them a “voice” while moving as independent players across the soccer field.

To this end, the robots are fitted with microphones and loudspeakers, as well as a custom-designed audio module. The amplification of microphones and loudspeakers is adjusted such that constantly varying feedback effects evolve out of the rapid motions of the robots in accordance with their individual positions. Other data from the on-board computers can also be evaluated for modulation of the musical sounds. One example of this would be the distance to other robots in conjunction with speed of movement.

Thus, the movements of robots, determined by the needs of a soccer game, are transformed into a piece of music. A piece of music that could not arise in any other manner and which will sound different in each performance, because the sequence of movements will be different every time.

The latticework of sound, generated in the manner described above from the movement of robots, has a structure that can be appreciated as a form of avant-garde electronic music. These kinds of artwork have, as a rule, human creators and are, in a certain way, bearers of human expression. So the listener may infer expressive musical values in this music, even though it was generated by robots.

The question arises of whether this is merely a projection of human intellect. Or is human creative drive preserved via the route build a moving machine—it plays soccer—which produces sounds as a side-effect—which are appreciated by people. And, thus, ultimately takes the form of expression.

There would be a further question. Can I arrange for the robot to move in such a way that it produces specific sounds? To what extent could robots be able to independently generate musical structures, sounds, and tones; analogously to the way they run independently across a soccer field? This would take us beyond music to an artistic examination of and experiments in the area of choreography. Further philosophical reflection would be appropriate here.
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