Music in Motion (as of 2012)

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Rhythmic flight of multiple quadrocopters

Imagine a handful of flying vehicles that move in rhythm to music. They fly through the three-dimensional space in a coordinated and precisely-timed fashion. The music choreographs their motion: a flying music show.

We aim for a novel visual musical experience [1]: a dance performance featuring multiple flying vehicles, which move in synchrony with the music and perform flips, eights, circles and other aggressive maneuvers timed with the beat of the music. The Flying Machine Arena, a cubic indoor flight space, forms the stage, and small autonomous quadrocopters are the actors of this performance.

We envision an expressive multi-media flight performance that is automatically composed and controlled, given a random piece of music. Our goal is to be able to quickly process any arbitrary piece of music and translate it into choreography that reflects the music’s character.

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Major challenges include:

Motion Design
Given the body and dynamics of a quadrocopter, translating music into suitable motion patterns is a significant artistic challenge. Unlike humanoid dance robots, which may imitate any human dance movement and produce an easily recognized expressive gesture, quadrocopters do not move the way humans do. Choreography of their movement is new, and requires creativity, aesthetic judgment and a deep understanding of the system’s dynamics and its limits [3].

Motion Control
A quadrocopter's nonlinear and unstable dynamics demands sophisticated controls in order to achieve precise trajectories and exact audio-motion synchronization. Modeling errors and other nonidealities, such as motor saturation and communication delays, have a noticeable effect on the quadrocopter performance. A stabilizing controller is required just to keep the vehicle in the air...

Motion Synchronization
To make the quadrocopters 'dance to music', it is essential to time the vehicle movement with the music beat precisely. In the proposed setup, however, the quadrocopters' dynamics are highly non-linear and not fully identified. Furthermore, the system’s time delays are variable. An appropriate synchronization algorithm is therefore indispensable [2].

Motion Composition
Given an arbitrary piece of music, music analysis extracts the associated sequence of music features with the corresponding timing information. The goal is to automatically generate a dance performance with multiple quadrocopters, where the quadrocopters' motion not only reflects the character of the music but also takes into account the physical limitations of the space and the vehicle. We plan to develop an automated tool that will compose a suitable multi-vehicle choreography based on a selection of motion primitives.


[1] A.P. Schoellig, F. Augugliaro and R. D'Andrea, A Platform for Dance Performances with Multiple Quadrocopters, IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems - Workshop on Robots and Musical Expressions, 2010, page 1-8.
Download (PDF, 1.2 MB)

[2] A.P. Schoellig, F. Augugliaro, Sergei Lupashin and R. D'Andrea, Synchronizing the Motion of a Quadrocopter to Music, IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, 2010, page 3355-3360.
Download (PDF, 865 KB)

[3] A.P. Schoellig, M. Hehn, S. Lupashin, R. D'Andrea, Feasible Periodic Motion Primitives for Choreographed Quadrocopter Flight, American Control Conference (ACC), 2011, submitted.

Past Participants

Studies on Mechatronics
Federico Augugliaro, Methods to Synchronize Motion and Music, 2009.

Bachelor Thesis
Federico Augugliaro, Synchronizing Motion and Music Beat - A Dancing Quadrocopter, 2009.

Semester Project
Federico Augugliaro, A Platform for Dance Performances with Multiple Quadrocopters - Graphical User Interface and Demonstration, 2010.


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