Video: the musical band in a box - with feelings

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Meet Cybraphon, the moody autonomous robot band in a box created by Edinburgh-based artist collective FOUND. Just like a real band, the diva-like Cybraphon scours the internet for reviews and comments and celebrates or sulks depending on what it finds.

To mark the Edinburgh International Festival in August, Cybraphon is joining the permanent collection of the National Museum of Scotland.

Prof Simon Kirby, one of Cybraphon's creators. Picture: submitted

Prof Simon Kirby, one of Cybraphon's creators. Picture: submitted

Inspired by early 19th century inventions such as the nickelodeon self-playing piano, Cybraphon is an interactive version of a mechanical band in a box. Image conscious and emotional, Cybraphon behaves like a real band, obsessively Googling itself every 15 seconds to see how popular it is. The results affect its emotional state (on a scale of ‘delirium’ to ‘desolation’), which in turn affects its playing style.

Cybraphon consists of a number of instruments, antique machinery and found objects from junk shops operated by over 60 robotic components, all housed in a modified wardrobe. Volume is controlled by opening and closing the wardrobe door, while its hidden computer ‘brain’ resides in one of the drawers. Using custom software, the ‘brain’ monitors the web and updates Cybraphon’s emotions according to the rate at which its popularity is changing over time. All mentions of Cybraphon online that are indexed by Google are noted, as well as activity on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Vimeo, Flickr and MySpace.

Its emotions are shown on a 100-year-old school galvanometer; a motor-driven crank drives the bellows of an Indian classical instrument modified with 13 robotic servo motors; a switched fan pumps air through a Farfisa organ retro-fitted with robotic keys; 12 chimes are struck by suspended coils; numerous percussion instruments are hit by beaters attached to motors, including a cigar box with an integral spring “reverb”; and a purpose-made vinyl record is cued robotically to play through antique brass gramophone horns. In addition to these musical components, Cybraphon has several internal light sources that are controlled on four fader channels, and infra-red motion detectors to monitor people watching it.

The acoustic music that Cybraphon plays spans a range of emotional states and is all composed especially for it by its creators, Edinburgh-based artist collective FOUND, who coincidentally played at the first RBS Museums Late event at National Museum of Scotland. Which tracks will be played at any point in time entirely depends on Cybraphon’s mood, which rests in the hands of the online community.

Picture: TSPL

Picture: TSPL

Cybraphon is desperate for your attention. To cheer it up, like it on Facebook, follow it on Twitter, write about it on your blog, post a photo of it online, or mention it in a tweet. You can see the ‘moody robot’ at the National Museum of Scotland, from Friday 9 August. Admission free.

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