TechCrunch Makers: Georgia Tech’s Musical Robots

Gil Weinberg is a Ph.D with a background in jazz. More importantly, however, he’s an expert in the field of artificial intelligence, especially in how it intersects with concepts of creativity and musicianship. His projects, Shimi and Shimon, two music-playing robots that regularly amaze audiences around the world, explore what it means to “play” music. He asks whether music is an innate human talent or a lucky confluence of math and harmonics.

I think he’s proven it’s the latter.

We talked with Weinberg in Georgia at his lab on Georgia Tech’s verdant campus. His work in artificial intelligence has allowed him to build “musical simulators,” which allow him to recreate the styles of various jazz and pop greats using his odd little robot, Shimon. To see these robots play – to see them work together at first and then roll off into wild solos and pleasing musical interludes – is strangely alien. You know that music is for humans, but these guys make machine music look easy.

You can learn more about Weinberg’s company, TovBot here and look for a commercial version of his Shimi phone dock/musical robot soon. Maybe one day his wild creations can take to the street corners around the world, playing for tips and reminding us that we don’t have a monopoly on music.