Will Assembly Line Robot DJs Take Over for Turntablists? Not Yet.

The last year has been full of new advancements in machine learning, automated jobs, and artificial intelligence. In a new heavily branded video making the rounds, a robot designed for vehicle manufacturing jobs “learns how to scratch” from DJ Yoda. It makes for a unique advertisement – but turntablists shouldn’t be afraid of this robot.

In the DJTT inbox this week was a new clip of a robot “learning how to scratch” from a DJ Yoda, a British DJ. The robot in question is called “YuMi”, a collaborative robot – built to work along with humans on an assembly line. Watch the video put out showing off the robot learning how to DJ below.

Be warned, the video is very obviously an advertisement for the Ford Fiesta. Skip over that part!  

Notice that we don’t actually see very much action from the robot in this video. What we do learn is that DJ Yoda found one the hardest parts was communicating with the coders behind the robot – and teaching them how to code the bot to play in time with the beat.

But even with precise coding behind every cut, did the robot actually hold its own in the performance? Watch for yourself – we clipped this video from a longer livestream:

The performance starts with Yoda (also onstage, not seen in the beginning) scratching over nothing, YuMi moves the crossfader and plays a track, and Yoda cuts over the beat. There’s a few very basic baby scratches from the robot, and the two go back and forth for a bit.

By the end of the routine, it’s clear to the viewer: this is a gimmick. The robot is playing a pre-set routine, and it’s not very refined. Maybe with more time from the coders it would be able to pass the turntablist version of a Turing Test, but it’s an awkward performance to anyone with a sense of timing.

So robots made to build cars aren’t going to be winning DJ battles anytime soon – but what about robots made to scratch? They’re already here:

The Scratching Robot DJs Should Fear

General purpose bots just aren’t cut out for the task of cutting on command. But last year we featured the incredible Scratchbot project by DJTT community member Mushrooshi that impressively emulated DJ-style cutting and scratching automation:

Read more about the Scratchbot in the video above in this DJTT feature. 

Couple this with a bit of artificial intelligence that has processed thousands of scratch routines. Then teach it how to create phrases and sequences on the fly, and you could genuinely have a cybernetic version of Qbert in just a few years. Entering a robot to compete in the 2017 DMC World Championship isn’t that crazy of an idea – someone just needs to make it happen.

Know of a legitimate development in robotics or AI that would be interesting to DJs? Let us know in the comments! 

Comments (17)
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  • DJ Leo Gee Gee

    Fuck that Robot …I want his paycheck

  • EanAndGizmoSittingInaTree

    It cannot replace the DJ, but If I’d be a CunTROLLerist like Ean then I would be afraid

    • CUSP

      LOL Wow, this guy is a freaking comic genius! Way to drop the old reverse-psychology bomb on us!

  • CUSP

    I’m sure we’ll see plenty of improvements upon standard-faire DJing, the things that are standard can be made into “power tools”, but that’s expected. We cannot however expect computers to come up with ad hoc stuff that works with people (at least for a long time), because that assumes a level of understanding about people that even our best Psychologists don’t understand yet.

  • Ztronical

    Wait let me check my Crate, its on my back along with all my Identity data, also this disc can be used as a weapon, “beware of my derezzining technique”
    Backflips and hot cgi bots included, lets get this party started right.

  • Ezmyrelda Andrade

    What the fuck? That was terrible. No, robots can’t replace DJ’s until they can do this shit quickly and intuitively. even if the robot were a bit quicker in this demonstration it was still a programmed execution which will never vary.

    • CUSP

      Robots got no “Flow.” The misplaced dislike for “Computer DJs” by the analogue purists, had to have been partially based on this. When you have no room for error, no “Slip”, you’ve made everything so very cold and methodical. I think there’s something to be said about a little “error” that makes the DJ set feel “alive.”

  • ghal gol hajt

    A piece of shit cannot replace the creativity of a dj. I like technology but this will be too much!!!!

  • zendoo

    You know what would be nice; a phone app that can do facial recognition and motion sensing, and turn that into a VU meter for crowd approval tracking. Lots of clubs have a webcam on the DJ booth. It’s only a small hop to go the other way, and have remote DJing.

    • Dubby Labby

      Termal sensor linked to drink freezers…

  • Jonathan FIgueroa

    why would you let this happen to such a long and hard worked culture?

    • ??

      Haven’t you noticed? The path of evolution in society is to automate everything possible until we reach a point where there is nothing left for us as humans to do but consume (food, drugs, media, vr experiences, etc).

      • zendoo

        It’s your choice to consume. You could just as easily spend that time creating new things.

        • Spacecamp

          I agree. Those paths of “consumption” are also potential paradises for artists, musicians, storytellers, etc.

      • Ezmyrelda Andrade

        This isn’t a bad thing.. Automate everything possible, give basic income to everyone, let people create or not as they wish. The value of human created art will rise in opposition to all the computer and robot created products.

    • elricsfate

      Sorry, everyone should stop researching because you’re butt hurt beat matching isn’t a skill anymore.

      • Ezmyrelda Andrade

        Oh, it’s still a skill. It will always be a skill. It’s just that now it’s a very over valued skilled. It was never hard.. It’s just that now it’s one that computers can do better than humans by and large.