With AI growing exponentially more sophisticated and permeating into more areas of everyday life, its potential to emulate its human counterparts in the more artistic endeavors has kept even its most ardent proponents somewhat skeptical.
While philosophers and science fiction have entertained the prospect of creative machines for decades. Industry leaders, such as Google and IBM's Watson supercomputer team, have attempted to tackle the issue head-on. Recently, the operators of a Czech nightclub have put the question of more human-like robots to the test where it really counts ─ or at least bumps ─ the dancefloor.
For the past three weeks, a repurposed automotive assembly robot has spun records as a resident DJ at Prague's five-story Karlovy Lazne Music Club, which bills itself as the "biggest music club in Central Europe." The club's managers commissioned the development and programming of the modified robot arm, which can not only select, spin, and scratch records with special software and a custom-built, wax-holding pincer, but can also "dance" to the beat of music it plays.
The owners say that the new DJ has helped draw curious crowds, but some club goers have returned less-than-enthusiastic reviews of its performance, saying that the technology fails to read the emotion of the crowd and, as a result, curates music somewhat, well...robotically.
While attendees may express mixed opinions, club manager Adam Lipsansky told Reuters that the DJ has received a positive reception. "People are excited (about the robot), because they haven't seen anything like this around Europe, and I am not sure if there is something similar in the world," he told the publication.
Even if the club goers saw room for improvement in how the robot maintained a vibe, most are likely no strangers to robotic DJs due to the automated programming that powers popular music streaming services, such as Spotify and Pandora.
Both services use machine learning to curate personalized playlists for each of their millions of users, with algorithms honing individual listening preferences by determining similarities between artists and songs through use of programming that accounts for how our neural networks process music, memory, and emotion.
Given the sophistication and popularity of the services - Spotify alone has more than 100 million users - it seems only a matter of time before programmers take what they have learned from pumping billions of songs through earbuds and incorporate live crowd reactions to drive the right mix through club speakers.
While the Prague nightclub's operators assure that their robot represents the first DJ of its kind, the continuing evolution of machine learning, and its growing intersection with music and interpreting human body language, all but ensures that it will be far from the last.