Dancing robot swan triggers emotions

Sep 21, 2010
The approximately one-meter-tall dancing swan is designed on the basis of a robot that was previously a student's degree project. The robot was built by a modular system and in the white wings, neck, beak and feet there are a total of 19 different joints, which makes it very flexible. Credit: Kerstin Gauffin

The Dying Swan is sometimes moving smoothly and gently, sometimes in a dramatic and fiery manner, as Tchaikovsky´s majestic music from the ballet Swan Lake is playing. Yet this is no ordinary ballet dancer, but a robot in the form of a swan, created at Mälardalen University and choreographed by professional dancer Asa Unander-Scharin.

The swan ´s just over four-minute-long dance has so far been seen only by a select few. But it has already made a big impression. Tearful eyes and words like "touching", "fascinating" and "beautiful" are some of the reactions.

"We want to explore the limits of what a robot can do, what human expressions it can mimic, and how it affects people's perception of the robot when it makes an appearance in art and dance," says Lars Asplund, Professor of Computer Science at Malardalen University in Vasteras, Sweden.

His research field is robotics and he has designed the approximately one-metre-tall dancing swan on the basis of a robot that was previously a student´s degree project. The robot was built by a modular system and in the white wings, neck, beak and feet there are a total of 19 different joints, which makes it very flexible.

The idea for the dancing robot was hatched jointly by Lars Asplund and his colleague Kerstin Gauffin, who works with theatre at Mälardalen University.

"With our swan we are showing that we can use robots in new ways - simply because they are beautiful and give the audience new experiences," says Kerstin Gauffin, who wants to see robots appear on stages along with "ordinary" actors.

She got in touch with the professional dancer and choreographer Asa Unander-Scharin, who now has designed the robot's special dance to the tunes of the famous composer Tchaikovsky. By systematically having the robot swan perform each movement by itself - right wing up, neck down, etc - Unander-Scharin has "taught" the robot swan her choreography because the computer inside it "recalls" the movement pattern and then plays it as an entire dance program.

Asa Unander-Scharin is used to working with stage performances in which the choreography interacts with music, scene space and new technology. She has also done research in the field and wrote the thesis "Human mechanics and soulful machines: choreographic perspectives on human qualities in body movement".

"I think it's exciting to see how emotionally touched people can get by machines, and to do the choreography for the swan robot has been great fun," says Asa Unander-Scharin.

On September 23-26, Malardalen University's dancing robot will be shown for the first time in public, at Sweden's largest book fair in Gothenburg.

Explore further: A robot dives into search for Malaysian Airlines flight

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Robot to take starring roles in S.Korea plays

Feb 10, 2010

A South Korean-developed robot that played to acclaim in "Robot Princess and the Seven Dwarfs" is set for more leading theatre roles this year, a scientist said Wednesday.

Musical robots perform duets (w/ Video)

Nov 26, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- A flute playing robot unveiled by Waseda University last year has been joined by a robot saxophonist in a Classical music duet. The aim of the project was to design robots that could respond ...

Robots perform Shakespeare to learn how to save people

Nov 13, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Flying robot fairies are joining human actors in Texas A&M University?s production of William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, which runs through Sunday (Nov. 15) in the Rudder Forum.

Recommended for you

A robot dives into search for Malaysian Airlines flight

Apr 18, 2014

In the hunt for signs of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370—which disappeared on March 8 after deviating for unknown reasons from its scheduled flight path—all eyes today turn to a company that got its start ...

Simplicity is key to co-operative robots

Apr 16, 2014

A way of making hundreds—or even thousands—of tiny robots cluster to carry out tasks without using any memory or processing power has been developed by engineers at the University of Sheffield, UK.

Students turn $250 wheelchair into geo-positioning robot

Apr 16, 2014

Talk about your Craigslist finds! A team of student employees at The University of Alabama in Huntsville's Systems Management and Production Center (SMAP) combined inspiration with innovation to make a $250 ...

Using robots to study evolution

Apr 14, 2014

A new paper by OIST's Neural Computation Unit has demonstrated the usefulness of robots in studying evolution. Published in PLOS ONE, Stefan Elfwing, a researcher in Professor Kenji Doya's Unit, has succes ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

First steps towards "Experimental Literature 2.0"

As part of a student's thesis, the Laboratory of Digital Humanities at EPFL has developed an application that aims at rearranging literary works by changing their chapter order. "The human simulation" a saga ...

TCS, Mitsubishi to create new Japan IT services firm

India's biggest outsourcing firm Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) and Japan's Mitsubishi Corp said Monday they are teaming up to create a Japanese software services provider with annual revenues of $600 million.

Finnish inventor rethinks design of the axe

(Phys.org) —Finnish inventor Heikki Kärnä is the man behind the Vipukirves Leveraxe, which is a precision tool for splitting firewood. He designed the tool to make the job easier and more efficient, with ...

Meth mouth menace

Something was up in Idaho. While visiting a friend in Athol, a small town north of Coeur d'Alene, Jennifer Towers, director of research affairs at the Tufts University School of Dental Medicine, noticed ...