If musicians became unhappy when computers and software enabled everyone to recreate the sounds of musical instruments, UkuRobot might infuriate them. For it is a ukulele-playing robot which can be programmed to play just about any song, chords or notes.
Unlike synthesisers or computer software, the robot plays the actual instrument, like in the theme from The Godfather (above), or the haunting Requiem for a Dream below. Its motors do add quite a bit of noise to the music, but everything else, from the plucking to the chords, is accurate.
The robot uses Lego, motors and an Arduino, which is an open-source electronics platform, accompanied by a programmable software, to create the magic, according to TechCrunch. UkuRobot team member Jakub told Digital Trends that the robot is controlled via Bluetooth by a software they designed, which allows them to compose and play any song they want. “The user is also able to play separate notes and chords – so it’s like playing the instrument traditionally, but using only your computer mouse. Excellent choice for fans of live music,” he said.
The robot was apparently born as a semester project at the AGH University of Science and Technology in Krakow, Poland, and went through several transformations before it became the UkuRobot we see here. The team is ambitious for the future, and plans to gradually rebuild the entire robot in order to reduce noise from the motors, give it a smoother design, and improve the software. “We are also planning to add some new functionalities, but those will remain top secret until they are finished,” said Jakub.
UkuRobot isn’t the first ukulele-playing robot, though it certainly is the most successful one so far, and the best sounding one by a large margin. In the past, several people across the world have tried to build a robot that plays the ukulele, with videos going as far back as 2012. There have been attempts by a 13-year-old Japanese student, by students of Mechatronics & Robotics at University of Leeds, and a couple other that you can see in the videos below.