Researchers from Georgia Tech, the MIT Media Lab, and IDC in Israel have formed a new start-up in Atlanta called Tovbot. One of their founders, Gil Weinberg, made it into the top ten selling apps with his music creator ZOOZBeat. He, along with Guy Hoffman and Roberto Aimi, built a marimba-playing robot capable of improvisation called Shimon circa 2010. It follows that the company’s first prototype, Shimi, is an Android-powered music robot.
Shimi takes advantage of your Android-based smartphone to recognize faces and words, allowing it to react intelligently to your commands. Additionally, the robot grooves to the beat of whatever song it plays by nodding its speaker-laden head and tapping its “foot”. It can also choose a tune for you based on the beat you tap or clap for it, and has the ability to create new compositions. The company will be presenting their robots at the Google I/O After Party today at San Francisco’s Moscone Center.
“We’ve packed a lot of exciting robotics technology into Shimi,” says Gil Weinberg, cofounder and CEO of Tovbot. “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 novelty of such a device is made clear in the video, but it’s questionable how much money such a thing is really worth to people. I suspect that (along with its sound quality) Shimi’s retail price of $199 USD will largely determine how it fares in competition with standard docks. It is also quite large for such a device, but being a prototype it may yet undergo some plastic surgery. A company rep says they plan to launch a line of smartphone-powered robots (some cheaper than Shimi) at CES 2013.
In the past, robotic musical companions (see Miuro, SONY’s Rolly, and AMP – not to mention even more toy-like varieties) have not caught on in a big way. And there will be more competition amongst music-playing robots soon, when such features become expected of hobby kits as more companies integrate their products with smartphone technology (see Dongbu’s K-POP idol robots announced earlier this week).