Robotic Dancing Swan: "Moving" or "Meh?" You Decide

September 23, 2010

Science-fiction devotees may worry that robots will eventually take over the Earth, but I think this week’s performance by a robotic dancing swan proves that we won’t have to worry about that for quite some time.

According to a press release, Lars Asplund, a computer science professor at Malarden University in Sweden, created the three-foot tall robotic dancing swan to determine the limit to which robots can mimic human emotions and to study how audiences would react to a robot that appears in art and dance. The release claims that the swan’s four-minute dance (choreographed by professional dancer Asa Unander-Scharin) moved early observers to tears.

The swan made its public debut during a Swedish book fair yesterday, and CNET has posted a link to a video of the performance. Check it out here.

Granted, live performances generally pack a stronger emotional punch than online videos, but I still found this so-called dance to be surprisingly pedestrian—even for a robot. The creature stays in the same spot throughout the routine and the choreography primarily consists of flapping “wings” and an undulating “neck.” I can only imagine that the viewers mentioned in the press release were moved by the music, not the movement. The release says early observers called the display “ ‘touching,’ ‘fascinating,’ and ‘beautiful’.” In my opinion, “awkward,” “simplistic” and “kinda creepy” seem more appropriate. What do you think? Tell us here.