Music Robotics
Animusic’s “Pipe Dream” Made Real

By now most of you have probably seen or heard some version of Animusic’s digitally animated musical concerts, specifically, their “Pipe Dream” video which has over 1.1 million views on YouTube. Well, Intel went ahead and made a real-world version of that concert! Taking 90 days to go from concept to completion, the robot “musicians” use 2,300 balls to produce 120 unique notes on what Intel describes as “off-the-shelf hardware” running “existing software” – meaning for $160k you too could build this in your garage! Compare and contrast the two videos after the jump.

[via HuffingtonPost]

59 thoughts on “Animusic’s “Pipe Dream” Made Real

  1. If you’re going to go through the lengths to make a “real” version of Animusic, why the hell would you use triggered electronic music instead of REAL instruments? Woulda been so much cooler…

    1. Wouldn’t see those cool blue LED light-ups on “real” instruments – also amplification would be an issue – this version is as “whimsical” as the original!

      1. Actually acoustic instruments can use triggers that sense vibration to signal the LEDs when struck. This is a lighting effect employed on drum sets (bouth drums and cymbals) for years.

      2. @Darin, True. I guess I meant more how the LED is embedded inside the instrument, making the whole instrument appear to light up upon contact. Similar but different from triggered lighting effects on drum kits – but a good point!

  2. If you look closely, even if the ball doesn’t hit the instrument the led lights up and the sound is indicated. So, they aren’t even using triggered electronic instruments. Just synchronizing the music to the ball launch with the led lighting up.

    Any comparison to Animusic by Intel with this demonstration is extremely lame.

    1. hi Chris. In the world of video, there’s lots of editing involved, and this clip is clearly just a promo video, the type of thing meant to “Ahhh” the viewer – the real thing is real, and was on view the Intel Developer Forum in September 2011. You can find plenty of videos online of it in action, in real-time, making all the proper notes upon contact. However this video is the best of them out there, for its image quality, sound quality, and lack of human voice-over – less humans, more robots!

  3. At first I was thinking that this was less cool because it is just pretending to do what the video does. It doesn’t look like it is actually triggering the notes, as much as miming as Chris said. But then I realized, why would an animation of something be anymore cool because the artist could sync up virtual images with virtual instruments. Intel mostly just took the virtual object and turned it into reality. If they didn’t manage to take the music from virtual to reality, you can’t discredit them. It just leaves room for improvement. I guess that’s what makes it worth engineering.

    1. Exactly, Intel “mostly” pulled it off, however they play it up as that it is actually doing something it is not. It doesn’t really play the instruments, even though someone in marketing claims it does.

  4. Wow, $160k. Is it just me, or does it seem like this could be done a lot cheaper? It would be a fun Maker Faire project to do this better, in a fraction of the budget. No need for an Atom. A few Arduinos, stepper motors, either compressed air or magnetic propulsion… It could even use real marimba and Xylophone .. uh .. planks(?).

    I’ve always thought Animusic’s compositions were a little clumsy, chaotic, and cheap sounding. So that could probably be improved upon, too!

    1. The price-point is a worthy critique, and so I totally agree with you. The robotic Gamelan is a good example of a much-cheaper and just as inspiring musical robot. Sounds like you have your Maker Faire project/work cut out for you SirNickity!

  5. The only thing I found disappointing was the fact that Intel neglected to capture and re-use the balls. The original Animusic was really awesome because every ball was captured, moved to another location, and used again. Intel “missed the ball” here by letting them all just fall to the floor. I am aware that catching them all would be a logistical nightmare, but if the balls were caught, or even automatically gathered in real time, the music could continue using less balls for a longer time, indefinitely in theory.
    It’s still awesome though. :)

    1. Good pun! And that’s an interesting thought that I hadn’t considered, collecting the balls to use again. Some sort of pool-table like catch where the balls go down tubes and get re-supplied. I love it. Let’s get making!

  6. The Animusic original easily surpasses what Intel copied. No comparison as far as I am concerned. The Intel model looks as cheap as the plastic parts that it uses. Why would I want to use an Intel Atom? Or seven for that matter?

  7. Wow. Some people here really naive to think that the Animusic thing could really be re-created in real life, with real instruments. If you will notice at the beginning, for example, the balls bounce off one string, onto another, off a little drum and then into a catcher. Try that in real life, and not just once, but over and over. And when the balls hit the cymbal/high-hat and then bounce nicely into the catcher funnel–that’s nearly impossible in real life, considering the cymbal is just floating on a center axis and doesn’t provide a solid surface off which to bounce. And no matter how fast in succession the balls hit the cymbal, they all go nicely into the funnel! Try that in real life.

    1. Not only that, but if you look at the drumset, there are no snares on the snare drum (in fact there is only one head), and the vibraphone bars don’t sound like that in real life without resonator tubes beneath them, and it is curious indeed that a ball hitting a snare drum sounds exactly like a wooden snare drum stick hitting a snare drum, which also never happens in real life.

  8. I think all the haters need to pause and look through and 8 year old’s eye… My son was truly amazed that a physical model was built of something he thought only lived in the digital world. He has taken this inspiration to the build level and is trying all kinds of ways to make sounds using his marbles. In the make tradition, I call this a success.

    1. Thanks for reading rneefe – I think we should all approach more things with the eyes of an 8 year old, and look forward to seeing your son’s marble sound maker contraptions!

  9. Loretta, I think you may be right about the ‘indefinite in theory’ aspect. The Animusic and mostly the Intel clip remind me of Rube Goldberg’s scoffed at perpetual motion concept.

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I'm an artist & maker. A lifelong biblioholic, and advocate for all-things geekathon. Home is Long Island City, Queens, which I consider the greatest place on Earth. 5-year former Resident of Flux Factory, co-organizer for World Maker Faire (NYC), and blogger all over the net. Howdy!

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