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26 November 2013

No more dancing on her own: students create a robotic Robyn

Call your girlfriend and tell her that there's a dancing robot version of Robyn, because science.

By Ian Steadman

Swedish roboticists at the KTH Institute of Royal Pharmacology have built a robot that dances just like the pop star Robyn, for reasons that will be evident to anyone who has ever heard one of her tracks (she’s amazing):

Announced earlier this year and now almost finished, the Robot Project was thought up by students who were inspired by her unique dancing style, as well as robot-themed songs like “Fembot”, ”Robot Boy” and ”The Girl And The Robot”. It picks up noises nearby and dances along to perceived rhythms, with a certain degree of “structured randomness” to make it seem more lifelike in the moves it chooses. Creating a dancing robot that can do stuff like this, while remaining balanced and stable, is quite a challenge.

Robyn has been on board with the idea from the start, meeting with the students and suggesting ideas. Now that the robot’s almost done, Robyn has visited the students again for a look – and she thinks what they’ve come up with is “cute”.

In a video interview, she explains: “I don’t want to think of the result, I want to think of the process of how you can use technology like this to do something with an emotional value. I think that it’s really good that you can use the functionality and the construction, the way it’s all connected together, it brings out the human aspect more. It feels kind of vulnerable.”

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She also said “I think the neck is really nice,” which is sweet.

For comparison, here’s the “Call Your Girlfriend” video – it’s got some great, angry moves in it:

There’s also a second Robot Project video where she talks about how important it is “that women get to do whatever they want”. She said: “Sometimes what’s tricky is that many girls don’t realise that they’re interested in technology because it’s not presented as something that they could be interested in … It’s nothing to do with gender, it’s to do with how much you are confronted with something.”

It’s well worth a watch:

“If you haven’t been in front of computers it might not feel like a place where you belong, so it’s about getting past that point to a point where you can get creative with technology to where you’re not focusing so much on the technological aspect but on the will to do something, and I think it’s important that women get to see themselves in that position more, and at least get to see the possibility.”

(via the Atlantic)