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Mar. 09, 2011

This Week on SciFri: Tod Machover and his Legion of Operabots

by Katherine

On this week’s show, we’re talking to composer and inventor Tod Machover about his newest project, an opera featuring specially-designed “operabots” acting, singing, and dancing along with human performers (program audio here). And lest you think robots are cold and unfeeling, word is the opera even includes a semi-erotic scene between an actress and a robotic chandelier. Here’s a short preview of Death and the Powers:


Machover is the head of two music-related labs at the bottomless well of ingenuity known as the MIT Media Lab (listen to the SciFri show on the lab’s 25th anniversary here). In addition to building operabots and composing music there, Machover also works on fascinating projects dealing with music and disability.

In Machover’s 2008 TED talk (below), he talks about the opera as well as his work with patients at Tewskbury Hospital in Massachusetts. Watch til the end to see a moving performance by Tewskbury resident Dan Ellsey. Ellsey has cerebral palsy and is unable to walk or speak, but a software designed by Machover allows him to compose, and perform, his own music.

Tune in to the show this week to hear more from Machover about music and technology. Death and the Powers premiers in Boston next week and will play in Chicago next month.

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About Katherine

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Science Friday.

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