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During the third week of September, the University of Maryland hosted a unique series of dance and robotics-related events featuring the Taiwanese choreographer Huang Yi. Yi has become famous for his work combining modern dance with a KUKA industrial robot that he programs himself.

"It takes about 10 hours of programming to render one minute of choreography," Yi said through an interpreter at a Thursday "Artist Talk" at the university's Clarice Center for the Performing Arts. The event was moderated by Maryland Robotics Center Director S.K. Gupta (ME/ISR). Gupta asked Yi about how the creative process works when coding is involved.

"It is completely back-and forth," Yi said. "I consider the choreography, and then I program. Then the programming reveals something to me that should occur in the choreography, and I revise the movement."

"Sometimes the problem is not programming the robot, it is that I realize I have not yet arrived at an understanding of what I want to do in the dance," he said.

When fine arts majors in the audience worried about the difficulties in learning programming, Yi was encouraging. "You just learn step by step," he said. "Even though there may be pain, you can work through it and become stronger."

Yi also visited with dance students and took a trip to the new Robotics Realization Lab, where he talked with students who were using KUKA robots as a platform for "robotic cleaning." In this research, two KUKA arms are programmed to scrub stains off the surface of a bowl-like object. Yi admired the more streamlined, human look of these KUKAs. "These may be the next models I use," he said.

The week culminated with two sold-out, mesmerizing performances at the Clarice by Yi, his dancers, and his KUKA robot that explored the relationships between humans and machines.

| Read a blog post by S.K. Gupta about the possibilities for robots and humans in the arts |

Photos below, top to bottom:

1) Choreographer Huang Yi (center, gesturing) visits with students in the Robotics Realization Lab. Like Yi, these students also work with KUKA industrial robots.

2) Maryland Robotics Center Director S.K. Gupta interviews Yi during the "Artist Talk."

3) The larger-than-human-sized KUKA robot Yi uses in his dances.



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September 30, 2015


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