Shimi the dancing robotic smartphone dock
By Darren Quick
June 27, 2012
Researchers at Georgia Tech’s Center for Music Technology have developed a one-foot-tall (30 cm) smartphone-enabled robot called Shimi, which they describe as an interactive “musical buddy.” Leveraging the power of a docked Android smartphone and the music library contained on the mobile device, Shimi can recommend songs, dance to the beat and play tunes based on listener feedback.
Due to be unveiled tomorrow at the Google I/O conference in San Francisco, Shimi can analyze a beat clapped by a user and scan the phone’s musical library to play the song that best matches the rhythm and tempo. The robot will then dance, tapping its foot and moving its head in time with the beat. With the speakers positioned as Shimi’s ears, the robot can also use the connected phone’s camera and face-detection software to move its head so that the sound follows the listener around the room.
Future apps in the works will allow users to shake their head when they don’t like the currently playing song and tell Shimi to skip to the next track with a wave of a hand. Again, these gestures are picked up using the phone’s built in camera. Shimi will also be able to recommend new music based on the user’s song choices.
Shimi was created by Professor Gil Weinberg, director of Georgia Tech’s Center for Music Technology, who hopes third party developers will get on board to expand Shimi’s capabilities further by creating their own apps. He developed the robot in collaboration with Professor Guy Hoffmann from MIT’s Media Lab and IDC in Israel, entrepreneur Ian Campbell and robot designer Roberto Aimi.
“We’ve packed a lot of exciting robotics technology into Shimi,” says Weinberg. “Shimi is actually the product of nearly a decade of musical robotics research. We’re very excited about the opportunity to show the Google developer community what we’ve put together using the Android platform”
The team has formed a new start-up company called Tovbot and is commercializing Shimi through an exclusive licensing agreement with Georgia Tech. They hope to have Shimi available to consumers towards the end of 2013. A band of three Shimi robots will shake their booty at the Google I/O after party, dancing in sync to music composed in the lab to show off Shimi's moves.
A preview of the band’s performance can be seen in the first video below. The researchers explain how Shimi works in the second video, while the third shows how Shimi might work in the home.