SCARY BEAUTY: Japanese robot opera performs in United Arab Emirates

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Android conductor Alter 3 will conduct a human orchestra during a performance in Sharjha on January 31.

A humanoid robot with artificial intelligence is set to lead a human orchestra in the lyrical performance Scary Beauty, which will premiere in the Middle East on January 31.

The piece, designed by composer Keiichiro Shibuya, questions our relationship to technology, in particular our dependence on our own technological inventions. To compose the music and write the lyrics, Shibuya drew inspiration from literature, in particular texts by beatnik poet William S. Burroughs and internationally renowned French novelist Michel Houellebecq.

Throughout the performance, the robot controls the musicians, volume and tempo. Alter 3 – that’s its name – adds an electronic voice to the performance, its vocals accompanying the musicians. With his robot body, his hands and his face borrowed from humans, the android offers a strange vision, straight out of a science fiction film.

A current version of the opera was performed in 2017 by a robot prototype. Then the android Alter 2 hosted the premiere which took place in 2018, in Tokyo, during a conference dedicated to artificial intelligence. This technological feat is due to AI scientist and professor at Osaka University Hiroshi Ishiguro. For the latest version of the humanoid robot, Shibuya, the composer, worked with Warner Music Japan to develop the software that allows Alter 3 to perform its functions.

Scary Beauty will be presented as part of the Sharjapan Inter Organics Japanese Performance and Sounds Art exhibition at the Sharjah Art Foundation.


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