Picture the scene. Tap, tap, tap. The conductor, regaled in polished stainless steel, readies the orchestra pit. The oboe purrs the purest middle C. All is still. No shuffling or gentle last-moment coughing. Not a human in sight. And then a surge of sound, chords, notes, strings and brass, wind and percussion. A new creation. Art and technology in full flow as the 21st century renaissance is greeted by the Da Vinci Symphony Orchestra and its new work entitled ‘Concert pour Systèmes Embarqués Européens’.
Fantasy? Not at all. ARTEMIS Industry Association, the European platform for embedded systems R&D, is already creating the dynamic conditions where creativity and technology can collide and explode in a crescendo of ideas and innovation. This is the challenge and opportunity presented by the ARTEMIS-IA Orchestra Platform.
It is a place where young people – from engineering studies to industrial R&D centres and from Amsterdam to Adelaide – can engage in the field of embedded systems technologies and applications in a fascinating and interactive way. Where ideas and knowledge can be shared, where liaisons and partnerships can be formed, where creative thrust can be allied to technological drive. Where modern alchemy may indeed be discovered.
From Handel to Hendrix
The ultimate aim of the ARTEMIS-IA Orchestra Platform is to form a complete ARTEMIS orchestra consisting of several robots playing different instruments capable of performing whole musical pieces – from Handel to Hendrix, from harpsichord to guitar. The only restriction? Imagination.
The concept challenges students and young professionals in industry to create devices that can play real, unmodified musical instruments with the aid of various embedded technologies. While the use of PCs is not excluded, devices that are closer to the embedded systems domain have a distinct preference. Small is beautiful and cheap is great – we encourage participants to come up with their own compact, cost-effective solutions.
Playing the platform
The platform is a virtual ‘room’ where people who are interested in participating in this notion can share and exchange ideas and knowledge, and even join together in alliances to develop ideas and technology, perhaps resulting in the forming of a coalition to produce an instrument-playing robot. In recent years a contest was organised whereby teams that had built a demonstrator of a musical instrument-playing robot were invited to compete for attractive prizes – the icing on the cake.
However, it is the platform where creative spirits spark. Depending on experience and progress made by groups on the platform, ARTEMIS-IA will rethink the contest format for the coming years. First and foremost, the results of on-line concerts by prospective groups (and individuals) on the platform are leading. Enthusiasm in the pre-competitive phase will serve as input for the revision of the rules for future contests.
As for the contest itself, three contests took place from 2007-2009 with two classes of participants, juniors and seniors. The junior class was restricted to first-year undergraduates whose teams could have a supervisor or mentor able to advise but not participate in the actual engineering and/or design.
There were several categories of accomplishment for different levels of sophistication, and four levels of difficulty, which allowed the players to gradually build experience. Pictures and information of the contests and former contestants may be found on the website of the ARTEMIS Industry Association. But first things first, click here to Plug in and play!