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The first Canadian robot rock band

10 Nov 2019 . category: Robotics . Comments
#music #robotics

During October I was tasked with creating a 15-minute musical experience using two of our robots. Two of our lab members would then take the experience to Macau and compete in IROS 2019 (International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems). Along with lab members Christian Melendez, Li Borui and under Dr. Lau’s supervision we set out to create an experience that combined technical and artistical. Scroll down for videos of the robots playing!

Using previous musical knowledge, I took care of Polaris’ drumming (our ‘adult’ size robot) while Chris worked towards making Oscar (our ‘kid’ size robot) play a small synthesizer. We decided to create an experience where each robot had a chance to show their abilites individually, as well as a ‘group’ performance containig both robots and a human playing guitar and vocals.

‘Rockband’ Drums

Polaris gained the ability to ‘read’ and play music from a guitar hero-style video. To achieve this, we used ROS (Robot Operating System), Computer Vision to detect the musical notes, and the Feedback Editor to create the musical ‘score’. Below you can find Polaris showing off during a rehearsal.

Robot Piano

Oscar learned to play and record music using a synthesizer. Using Computer Vision and inverse kinematics, Oscar is able to play and record Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean, cooperating with Chris to add a drum beat.

Snobots band performance

The best part of the show (and most challenging!) was the group performance. The Snobots band has two songs in its repertoire: ‘Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door’ by Guns N’ Roses and ‘光辉岁月’ by Beyond. We wanted a concert that both international attendees and local spectators could rock to. My favorite song is 光辉岁月, it is a little more complex and the drums are more interesting ;) .


Chris and Dr. Lau traveled to Macau to present our work (I couldn’t attend because of job interviews). Our performance secured second place, earning a robotic hand. Preparing this experience was different from other robotics competitions were rules are very strict; here we had (almost) total technical and artistical freedom. I am very thankful for the opportunity to participate in yet another competition. There is more to come from the Snobots band!

Mario Mendez is a passionate Computer Science student living in Canada.