BU Researchers Are Teaching Robots to Salsa Dance

Who's ready to watch Dancing with the Robots?

Here’s your daily dose of cool stuff coming out of area universities: Boston University’s Intelligent Mechatronics Lab is teaching robots that look a bit like the Roomba how to salsa dance. The goal is to give robots the ability to adapt to unforeseen signals from their environment, and not just with verbal cues. So, according to BU Today, researchers mapped out several beginner moves by watching how dancers interact, then taught robots to use motion sensors to read and respond to each other in a similar way. You can see the robots shake their groove thang in this video:

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Why dancing? Professor John Bailleuil explains in the video:

There’s a lot of non verbal communication in dance and people who become good at it they are able to function as teams and there’s a great deal of interest in having mixed teams or teams of robots that go out and do tasks such as performing rescue when a nuclear power plant gets into trouble. There are things you don’t want to have humans do.

Grad student H. Kayhan Ozcimder dances with BU’s Collage troupe and studies in the Intelligent Mechatronics Lab. According to BU Today:

Ozcimder thinks motion-reading robots might someday serve as useful tools for judging dance competitions (possibly bouncing Kirstie Alley even sooner from Dancing with the Stars), but Baillieul is hunting bigger game. He’s not out to help “some high school guy who had trouble getting a date, so you get a robot. The ultimate goal is to understand human reaction to gestures and how machines may react to gestures.”

Woah, woah, woah, let’s not discard those other application so quickly. Not only would a robot judging Dancing with the Stars be the greatest reality-TV-robot-invasion since Watson on Jeopardy, but a heartwarming story about an uncoordinated loser who learns about salsa dancing and love from his robot best friend sounds like Hollywood gold! Think Silver Linings Playbook 2: Robot Apocalypse! Harvey Weinstein, if you’re reading, call me. We can work this out.