Inventions & TechNews

Shimon the Songwriting Robot Is About to Release a New Album

Meet Shimon, the singing and head-bobbing robot that’s about to release the hottest new robot album of 2020.

“Shimon, the marimba-playing robot, has learned some new skills: He sings, he dances a little, he writes lyrics, he can even compose some melodies. Now he’s taking them on the road in a concert tour to support a new album — just like any other musician.”

According to Georgia Tech, Shimon the robot has been hard at work with his creator, Professor Gil Weinberg, writing music that might not be your cup of tea, but that’s pretty compelling one way or another.

To create their music, Weinberg gives Shimon a theme (one example they use is “space”) and composes a melody. Shimon then writes lyrics based on the theme, using deep learning to generate related words.

Once the song is finished, their band, comprised of human musicians along with Shimon, brings the music to life.

“I always wanted to write songs, but I just can’t write lyrics. I’m a jazz player,” Weinberg says of the process, “This is the first time that I actually wrote a song, because I had inspiration: I had Shimon writing lyrics for me.”

Shimon hasn’t always been a vocalist or a songwriter. Previously, he simply and quietly played the marimba, as seen in this performance at the Kennedy Center back in 2015. New upgrades and the use of deep learning algorithms have since gifted Shimon with the ability to write lyrics, sing, and dance, to a certain extent.

For his writing skills, he was “trained on datasets of 50,000 lyrics from jazz, prog rock, and hip-hop.” His voice was created using a machine learning voice synthesizer, generated by collaborators at Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona, Spain.

As for his dancing ability, while performing Shimon can be seen moving his head to the rhythm, opening his mouth to sing, and raising his brand new metallic eyebrows.

Most interesting is perhaps how Shimon and other robotic musicians may influence music going forward. According to Professor Weinberg, in the future robots like Shimon may work collaboratively with human musicians to create new ideas and help them “broaden the way they think about music and play music.”

“I think we have reached a level where I expect the audience to just enjoy the music for music’s sake,” he says, “This is music that humans, by themselves, wouldn’t have written. I want the audience to think, ‘There’s something unique about this song, and I want to go back and listen to it, even if I don’t look at the robot.’”

Shimon’s upcoming album will feature up to 10 songs, and they also intend to go on a concert tour (if things ever settle down, huh?). The video for the album’s first single, “Into Your Mind,” premiered February 24, 2020.

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Rob Schwarz

Rob Schwarz is a writer, blogger, and part-time peddler of mysterious tales. For nearly 10 years, he's managed Stranger Dimensions, providing a unique perspective on all matters involving time travel, parallel universes, and whether or not robots might one day take over the world.

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