Robotic orchestra perform Dr Who theme tune on Royal Institution Christmas Lectures

The Royal Institution Christmas Lectures - Sparks Will Fly: How to Hack your Home, was delivered by Prof Danielle George from the University of Manchester.

The National Facility for Innovative Robotic Systems, here at the University of Leeds, contributed a robotic bass guitar as well as working with National Instruments to programme an electric one to form part of the orchestra.

Originally developed by Dr Andrew Jackson, Teaching and Research Fellow in the Faculty of Engineering, the robo-bass was created to help with the delivery of teaching on computer programming techniques as part of the LabVIEW Academy.

Dr Jackson explains: ‘The robot mimics the way in which a human plays the bass, if the human had 12 fingers on their left hand that is. Small solenoids are used to actuate 3D printed fingers that press down on the frets, selecting which note should be played while two small pneumatic cylinders are used to pick the string. The software runs on a small embedded controller called a myRIO that is capable of accurately keeping the timing correct.’

Catch up on the 2014 Royal Institution Christmas Lectures on BBC iPlayer.

The human and robotic orchestra in the CHRISTMAS LECTURE ‘A new revolution’ was made possible thanks to a fantastic collaboration of robotics and engineering experts and musicians from all over the UK and even Spain.

The Music Informatics Research Group at City University London filled the role of conductor by providing the central robot orchestra control, the Centre for Robotics & Neural Systems at Plymouth University contributed the robotic keyboards, the Synthetic Perceptive, Emotive and Cognitive Systems group at Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona, Spain contributed the robotic iCub theremin player, the Centre for Robotics Research at Kings College London contributed the drum bot, the School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science at Queen Mary University of London contributed Mortimer the drumming robot, the National Facility for Innovative Robotic Systems at Leeds University contributed the robotic bass guitar and collaborated with National Instruments to provide an electric guitar, the EPSRC FARSCOPECentre for Doctoral Training atBristol University contributed the cymbal-playing UAV and last, but not least, human musicians (Robert Ames, Galya Bisengalieva, Chris Graves and Kate Hainsworth) from the London Contemporary Orchestra played the viola, violin, cello and french horn.