Xiaomi’s Humanoid Drummer Beats Expectations

When Xiaomi introduced its CyberOne humanoid robotic a few months again, it wasn’t fully clear what the corporate was really going to do with the robotic. Our guess was that quite than pretending that CyberOne was going to have some type of sensible function, Xiaomi would use it as a manner of exploring potentialities with expertise which will have helpful functions elsewhere, however there have been no express ideas that there could be any precise analysis to return out of it. In a pleasant shock, Xiaomi roboticists have taught the robotic to do one thing that’s, if not precisely helpful, no less than loud: to play the drums.

The enter for this efficiency is a MIDI file, which the robotic is ready to parse into drum beats. It then generates song-length sequences of coordinated whole-body trajectories that are synchronized to the music, which is difficult as a result of the top effectors have to ensure to actuate the drums precisely on the beat. CyberOne does a fairly respectable job even when it’s going forwards and backwards throughout the drum package. That is maybe not tremendous cutting-edge humanoid analysis, but it surely’s nonetheless attention-grabbing to see what an organization like Xiaomi has been as much as. And to that finish, we requested Zeyu Ren, a senior {hardware} engineer on the Xiaomi Robotics Lab, to reply a few questions for us.

IEEE Spectrum: So why is Xiaomi engaged on a humanoid robotic, anyway?

Zeyu Ren: There are three explanation why Xiaomi is engaged on humanoid robots. The primary cause is that we’re seeing an enormous decline within the labor drive in China, and the world. We’re engaged on changing the human labor drive with humanoid robots despite the fact that there’s a lengthy solution to go. The second cause is that we imagine humanoid robots are probably the most technically difficult of all robotic varieties. By engaged on humanoid robots, we are able to additionally use this expertise to resolve issues on different robotic varieties, corresponding to quadruped robots, robotic arms, and even wheeled robots. The third cause is that Xiaomi needs to be probably the most technically superior firm in China, and humanoid robots are attractive.

Why did you select drumming to display your analysis?

Ren: After the official launch of Xiaomi CyberOne on August 11, we obtained lots of suggestions from the general public who didn’t have a background in robotics. They’re extra taken with seeing humanoid robots doing issues that people can’t simply do. Actually talking, it’s fairly troublesome to seek out such eventualities, since we all know that the primary prototype of CyberOne is way behind people.

However someday, certainly one of our engineers who had simply begun to play drums prompt that drumming could also be an exception. She thought that in comparison with rookie drummers, humanoid robots have extra benefits in hand-foot coordinated movement and rhythmic management. All of us thought it was a good suggestion, and drumming itself is tremendous cool and attention-grabbing. So we select drumming to display our analysis.

What was probably the most difficult a part of this analysis?

Ren: Essentially the most difficult a part of this analysis was that when receiving the lengthy sequences of drum beats, CyberOne must assign sequences to every arm and leg and generate steady collision-free whole-body trajectories throughout the {hardware} constraints. So, we extract the essential beats and construct our drum beat movement trajectory library offline by optimization. Then, CyberOne can generate steady trajectories in step with any drum rating. This method offers extra freedom to CyberOne taking part in drums, and is barely restricted by the robotics functionality.

What various things do you hope that this analysis will assist your robotic do sooner or later?

Ren: Drumming requires CyberOne to coordinate whole-body motions to realize a quick, correct, and enormous vary of motion. We first wish to discover the restrict of our robotic by way of {hardware} and software program to supply a reference for the next-generation design. Additionally, by way of this analysis, now we have shaped an entire set of automated drumming strategies for robots to carry out totally different songs, and this expertise additionally helps us to extra rapidly understand the event of different musical devices to be performed by robots.

What are you engaged on subsequent?

Ren: We’re engaged on the second era of CyberOne, and hope to additional enhance its locomotion and manipulation capability. On the {hardware} degree, we plan so as to add extra levels of freedom, combine self-developed dexterous palms, and add extra sensors. On the software program degree, extra sturdy management algorithms for locomotion and imaginative and prescient will likely be developed.