Robots Playing Music – Stanford’s AUTOMATICA showcases full robotic potential

We can talk about amazing precision and the wide application potential of robotic arms. We can discuss the number of axis, degrees of freedom and we can list numerous reasons for robotic automation. But no words can showcase the amazing abilities of modern robotics as good as Nigel Stanford’s latest project.

The Project called AUTOMATICA is what happens when scientific principles and high technology are applied to the creation of music and no one is better known for the exploration of the intersection between music and technology than Nigel Stanford.

In 2009, his music video called Cymatics garnered over 15 million views on YouTube and countless other interactions and discussion online. Nigel did a revolutionary thing: He used the principles of the scientific field to manipulate water, fire, and lightning into intricate living patterns using only sound waves.

Last year Stanford surprised us again, this time utilizing KUKA robots as the medium through which he explores technological creativity. This resulted in a video for the title track from his new album AUTOMATICA that features robots playing instruments, going wild and ultimately destroying them, creating a musical metaphor for the digital age. “Topics of AI, the singularity, robots, and automation are always on people’s minds these days – and AUTOMATICA is the musical expression of these conversations. Really, the question is ‘What does it mean to be human in the digital age?’ Also, watching a robot make a piano explode is pretty cool,” says Stanford.

“For me this was a labor of love, exploring how technology is changing everything in our lives, affecting how humans interact with each other and what creativity means as more and more processes became automated,” Stanford concludes.


Along the path to creating AUTOMATICA Stanford wasn’t alone. An entire cast of characters helped him to realize his vision, including the experts at KUKA Robotics and KUKA partner Andy Flessas (AKA andyRobot).

They worked closely to program the robots and bring these futuristic high-tech musicians to life. Flessas built his name in the entertainment industry by using robotics in creative projects and helping major stars like Bon Jovi, Lady Gaga, Deadmau5, and others to include robotics in their acts. His Robot Animator plug-in for Maya allows humans to impose their creativity on KUKA robots without needing to learn how to program or code them.


“We’re facing a paradigm change in the world of robotics,” says Flessas. “The cost for robotic systems has come down and the ability to program them has gotten much easier over the past several years – to the point that now we’re seeing a perfect storm of potential for robots to be used in creative endeavors to great effect. Working with Nigel on this project was a further exploration of how creativity can be enhanced by technology. Making AUTOMATICA was certainly a challenging project, but the result is amazing.”

Here at Nortech Packaging, we utilize KUKA robotics for various packaging applications and we can confirm that they truly are as precise, flexible and versatile as it is shown in the video. Playing an instrument is considered to be one of the most complex human activities and the fact that KUKA robotic hands are able to create music only shows how advanced today’s technology has become.

We’ve reached the age where case erecting, case loading, case sealing, welding, painting, palletizing or even playing an instrument are no challenge for modern robotics. Robotic Arms became the way to save money, time and labor. They are being used to bring down production and test costs. Robotic automation of the packaging processes also protects workers from repetitive motion injuries and allows them to focus on what’s really important.

So, after this video, will you let a robot give you a hand?