Documenting the Coming Singularity

Friday, March 23, 2007

Dancing to the Beat of a Different Drummer

I cannot dance. Oh, I tried to fake it when I was younger, but I don't think anyone was fooled. I'm not sure what was missing that caused my less-than-coordinated movements. Some algorithm that other people have, perhaps. However, if I live long enough to be instantiated into another body, I will make sure it (and I) can dance.

Researchers are developing software that can enable robots to detect the beat within a piece of music and then move along with the rhythm it detects. That's what I don't do as well as I'd like. The goal of this development is to have robots synchronize their movement to the voice and movement of a person. If you look at how people converse, you'll notice that we do not keep still. We engage each other in conversation with our whole body, moving and gesturing along with our interlocutors. (Some of us move and gesture more than others, but let's not stereotype.)

If robots are to be accepted by humans, they will need to be able to engage in conversation in the same way, moving and gesturing along with us. Robots have already been developed who can dance and even conduct an orchestra (click here to read the article and here to watch video). But the difference is that these robots have been entirely pre-programmed. The little squishy robot called Keepon, in contrast, is designed to move in response to what it hears and sees. Click here to watch Keepon orient himself to movement and voices.

As reverse-engineering the human brain progresses, the hardware and augmentation software is also progressing, so that your consciousness may one day soon be able to be instantiated into a better body. Hopefully you will be able to dance.