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Atlanta-Israel Company Debuts Music Robot at Google Conference

Tovbot is changing the way to enjoy music.  The start up, headquartered in Atlanta at Georgia Tech’s accelerator in Midtown Atlanta with a development team in Herzliya, has introduced Shimi, a musical companion that recommends songs, dances to the beat, and keeps the music pumping based on listener feedback. The smartphone-enabled, one-foot-tall robot is billed as an interactive ‘musical buddy’.

“Shimi is designed to change the way that people enjoy and think about their music,” said Dr. Gil Weinberg, Tovbot co-founder and the robot’s creator who is director of Georgia Tech’s Center for Music Technology.  He unveiled the robot late last month at the Google I/O conference in San Francisco. A band of three Shimi robots strutted their stuff for guests, dancing in sync to music created in the lab and composed according to its movements.

Shimi is essentially a docking station with a ‘brain”’ powered by an Android phone. Once docked, the robot gains the sensing and musical generation capabilities of the user’s mobile device, and if there’s an app for that, Shimi is ready.  By using the phone’s camera and face-detecting software, the robot can follow a listener around the room and position its ‘ears’ or speakers, for optimal sound. Another recognition feature is based on rhythm and tempo.  If the user taps or claps a beat, Shimi analyzes it, scans the phone’s musical library, and immediately plays the song that best matches the suggestion.  Once the music starts, Shimi dances to the rhythm.

Future apps in the works will allow the user to shake his head in disagreement or wave a hand in the air to alert Shimi to skip to the next song or increase / decrease the volume. The robot will also have the capability to recommend new music based on the user’s song choices and provide feedback on the music play list.  Tovbot expects to make the robot available to consumers by the 2013 holiday season.

Shimi was developed in collaboration with the Media Innovation Lab at IDC Herzliya led by Tovbot co-founder Professor Guy Hoffmann.   Entrepreneur Ian Campbell and robot designer Roberto Aimi are also part of the Shimi team.

“If robots are going to arrive in homes, we think that they will be these kind of machines – small, entertaining and fun. They will enhance your life and pave the way for more sophisticated service robots in our lives,” Weinberg added.

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