Defected has a neat article about robot DJs, and their cunning plans to crush and replace their human counterparts in a mere 40-50 years or so.
The highly regarded Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute Of Technology houses one such team and where in 2002, Assistant Professor Of Media Arts & Sciences, Chris Csikszentmihalyi launched the DJ-I Robot Sound System. I-Robot used a PC, several micro-controllers and an advanced ‘motion control’ system to automatically search, play and manipulate the vinyl records sitting on its turntables.
Over the past decade I-Robot has been on educative world tour, learning new techniques and generally stupefying its human counterparts. Csikszentmihalyi is keen, over time, to create the perfect spinner: “If we can make this machine work, we’ll give club owners an easy time.” And yet he has always been aware of the fun, experimental aspect of his work; back at that 2002 launch, he teased those human jocks concerned about imminent robot revolution. “We’re trying to make human DJs obsolete as far as possible” he semi-joked. “They’re expensive; they’re unreliable.”
While stories like this are prone to hyperbole, a really good robot DJ is not as far-fetched as some of the flesh-and-blood DJs quoted in the article seem to think: (or want to think):
Defected makes the case — or at least gives that all-important ending sentiment to someone who does — that human DJs will never be wholly replaceable: “technology will never be able to replicate the raw and indefinable adrenaline rush of a human DJ bang on his game.” But as comparable developments in classical music show us — a program written by UC Santa Cruz emeritus professor David Cope is writing high-quality original music based on sophisticated algorithms — no form of expression is so unimpeachably ‘human’ that machines can’t conceivably give us a run for our money, and even surpass us. At that, as the DJing bots in the video below illustrate, we’ve still got some time.