Making robots play music

This project is in the field of musical robotics, an area where researchers consider the many difficulties involved in teaching robots to play musical instruments by themselves, in groups, or in collaboration with humans. These research problems touch on many areas of computing such as artificial intelligence, systems, machine learning, and human-computer interaction.

Our high-level goal is to teach a robotic arm to perform music on a standard electronic keyboard. Unlike typical animatronic performances where a robot might follow fully pre-programmed actions to perfectly play a musical instrument, this robot will have to decide what notes to play and the best way to them (in terms of arm movements). This leads to a number of interesting AI problems in music generation and planning.

While the outcome of this project will definitely be fun to watch, the knowledge generated could be applicable in the future when we expect robots to work safely alongside humans, particularly in settings such as aged care, for tasks that could well include creative music collaboration.

For this project, the student will be expected to:

  • Be proficient in C++ and Python
  • Be comfortable with development with open source libraries in Ubuntu
  • Be open to learning how to operate a robotic arm in simulation and in a controlled laboratory setting (pictured below)

How to Apply

To apply for this project, contact Charles Martin or Rahul Shome.


  • your CV
  • your unofficial transcript (if you are an ANU student)
  • a brief statement (200 words) in your email explaining how you would approach this project

Make sure to specify the skills and accomplishments you have that would help you to complete this project. You may want to read some of the useful papers and resources below to understand the context of this project.

Useful Papers and Resources:


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