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iPhone + robot marimba player = instant band

Shimon is an autonomous robot marimba player created at Georgia Tech. When teamed with iPhone app ZOOZBeat, Shimon can jam Thelonius Monk-style.

Tired of Guitar Hero? Try jamming with your iPhone or iPod Touch and Shimon, an autonomous, marimba-playing, octopus-armed hipster robot.

Gil Weinberg, director of music technology at Georgia Tech, is developing Shimon as a socially dynamic band mate. He says the robot "listens like a human and improvises like a machine" thanks to complex algorithms that allow it to perceive and improvise a groove.

Credit: Video screenshot by Tim Hornyak/CNET

Weinberg is also behind ZOOZBeat, an app that turns your iPhone into an instrument and sequencer, letting you remix and loop your own music by shaking, tilting, and otherwise getting down with it. Beats come bundled with the app, but you can also download packs with vocals, hooks, and instruments.

If there aren't iPhone-only bands out there already, ZOOZBeat will probably start a trend. But as I mentioned in an earlier post about the exciting new Eigenharp, electronic music concerts can benefit from a more dynamic physical performance, and that's where Shimon, with its bobbing cyclops head, comes in.

As the vid after the jump shows, Shimon can take your ZOOZ loop with a Wi-Fi flick and run with it. Here, it repeats and improvises on a jazzy loop, playing in a variety of styles resembling jazz greats like John Coltrane or Thelonius Monk.

Shimon was recently involved in what was billed as the first intercontinental human-robot musical interaction when people at Siggraph Asia 2009 in Yokohama, Japan, used ZOOZBeat to jam with Shimon in Atlanta. In a sense, the concept takes the idea of the virtual band to a new level by including intelligent robots and smartphones.

No word yet on whether Shimon has an agent or a record deal.

(Via NPR Music)