Category Archives: Technology

silicon valley & technology news

New Technology Being Developed for Pacemakers

You may have seen this on TV: Someone whose heart has gone into a wildly abnormal rhythm, or whose heart has stopped, is shocked when a medic uses defibrillator paddles to restart the heart.

The electric shock is so powerful that the body convulses and the patient screams. You can see it on YouTube if you search for “defibrillator shock.” The video makes clear what patients go through, including those who have defibrillators implanted in their hearts.

Aydin Babakhani, an engineering professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, likens implantable defibrillators to dial up telephones, which have long since been replaced by smartphones. 

“Pacemakers use a very old technology. They still use wires. They still use batteries. And they are bulky and large,” he said.

New ways for the heart

Babakhani places tiny sensors on very small chips for industrial and medical use. Before his move to UCLA, he worked at Rice University, where he began collaborating with Dr. Mehdi Razavi, a cardiologist at the Texas Heart Institute.

The men were investigating new ways to pace and defibrillate the heart. The collaboration was easy because Rice is across the street from the heart institute.

As a cardiac electrophysiologist, Razavi wants to be able to shock the heart back into a normal rhythm without shocking the patient. Razavi says the idea of placing a number of small chips in the heart could achieve that goal.

“The limitation up to now with using pacing is that we simply do not have enough pacing sites to distribute this energy across the heart muscle,” he said.

Babakhani developed small chips to pace the heart and help it stay in a normal rhythm. They are smaller than a dime, less than 18 millimeters long. This pacing system has no battery and no leads, the wires that connect the battery to the heart in traditional pacemakers.

Traumatic, painful event

Even when there’s no pain, defibrillation has a huge impact.

When John O’Leary’s implanted defibrillator sent shocks to his heart to get it back into a normal rhythm, it stopped him cold. 

“I thought I walked into a lamp post,” he said. “There was no pain whatsoever. I really felt that I walked into something hard.”

Razavi says another problem with the pacemaker/defibrillators now in use is that once patients are defibrillated, many of them feel traumatized. It can take more than one shock to get the heart back into a normal rhythm.

Anne Bunting said she screamed in pain through repeated defibrillations.

“It saved my life that day, but it was also a fearsome thing to go through because it was so painful,” she said.

Preclinical trials promising

In preclinical trials, the chips worked well. “We did a test with six simultaneous chips all over the heart and they were all pacing together,” Babakhani said.

Babakhani and Razavi are now working on a delivery system that will not require surgery. The goal is to thread the chips into the heart on a catheter, much like doctors implant stents by placing them on a catheter and threading it through a vein in the groin.

The chips would be powered by microwaves. A slim generator would be placed under the skin, and the chips could be placed in multiple locations in the heart. This would eliminate the need to replace the pacemaker’s battery, and it eliminates the weakest part of a traditional pacemaker, which is the lead.

Razavi likens the generator that will power the chips to a symphony and its conductor.

“You have 30 chips in the heart, so you have 30 members of the symphony. This power generator, under the skin is the conductor, and it orchestrates simultaneously, in unison, it commands all those chips, and those chips follow its command,” he said.

What’s more, the shock would be distributed throughout the heart. 

“By doing that you do not feel a shock. You do not feel anything,” Razavi said.

The men estimate that it will take them five more years to bring the technology for pacemakers to a level on par with that of smartphones.

$1*/ mo hosting! Get going with us!

New Technology Being Developed for Pacemakers

You may have seen this on TV: Someone whose heart has gone into a wildly abnormal rhythm, or whose heart has stopped, is shocked when a medic uses defibrillator paddles to restart the heart.

The electric shock is so powerful that the body convulses and the patient screams. You can see it on YouTube if you search for “defibrillator shock.” The video makes clear what patients go through, including those who have defibrillators implanted in their hearts.

Aydin Babakhani, an engineering professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, likens implantable defibrillators to dial up telephones, which have long since been replaced by smartphones. 

“Pacemakers use a very old technology. They still use wires. They still use batteries. And they are bulky and large,” he said.

New ways for the heart

Babakhani places tiny sensors on very small chips for industrial and medical use. Before his move to UCLA, he worked at Rice University, where he began collaborating with Dr. Mehdi Razavi, a cardiologist at the Texas Heart Institute.

The men were investigating new ways to pace and defibrillate the heart. The collaboration was easy because Rice is across the street from the heart institute.

As a cardiac electrophysiologist, Razavi wants to be able to shock the heart back into a normal rhythm without shocking the patient. Razavi says the idea of placing a number of small chips in the heart could achieve that goal.

“The limitation up to now with using pacing is that we simply do not have enough pacing sites to distribute this energy across the heart muscle,” he said.

Babakhani developed small chips to pace the heart and help it stay in a normal rhythm. They are smaller than a dime, less than 18 millimeters long. This pacing system has no battery and no leads, the wires that connect the battery to the heart in traditional pacemakers.

Traumatic, painful event

Even when there’s no pain, defibrillation has a huge impact.

When John O’Leary’s implanted defibrillator sent shocks to his heart to get it back into a normal rhythm, it stopped him cold. 

“I thought I walked into a lamp post,” he said. “There was no pain whatsoever. I really felt that I walked into something hard.”

Razavi says another problem with the pacemaker/defibrillators now in use is that once patients are defibrillated, many of them feel traumatized. It can take more than one shock to get the heart back into a normal rhythm.

Anne Bunting said she screamed in pain through repeated defibrillations.

“It saved my life that day, but it was also a fearsome thing to go through because it was so painful,” she said.

Preclinical trials promising

In preclinical trials, the chips worked well. “We did a test with six simultaneous chips all over the heart and they were all pacing together,” Babakhani said.

Babakhani and Razavi are now working on a delivery system that will not require surgery. The goal is to thread the chips into the heart on a catheter, much like doctors implant stents by placing them on a catheter and threading it through a vein in the groin.

The chips would be powered by microwaves. A slim generator would be placed under the skin, and the chips could be placed in multiple locations in the heart. This would eliminate the need to replace the pacemaker’s battery, and it eliminates the weakest part of a traditional pacemaker, which is the lead.

Razavi likens the generator that will power the chips to a symphony and its conductor.

“You have 30 chips in the heart, so you have 30 members of the symphony. This power generator, under the skin is the conductor, and it orchestrates simultaneously, in unison, it commands all those chips, and those chips follow its command,” he said.

What’s more, the shock would be distributed throughout the heart. 

“By doing that you do not feel a shock. You do not feel anything,” Razavi said.

The men estimate that it will take them five more years to bring the technology for pacemakers to a level on par with that of smartphones.

$1*/ mo hosting! Get going with us!

New Technology Being Developed for Pacemakers

When you are watching a television show and see someone get their heart shocked back into a rhythm, you will see their entire body rise up in the air. That’s what happens when a defibrillator is used, because the shock is that powerful. As VOA’s Carol Pearson reports, scientists are now working on better, more effective, and less-shocking ways to get a heart to start beating once again.

$1*/ mo hosting! Get going with us!

Britain, US Probing Use of Facebook Data by British Voter Profiling Company

Social media giant Facebook faced new investigations Tuesday in both Britain and the United States about the vast troves of information compiled by the company about their users and how that data has been deployed to influence elections by Cambridge Analytica, a British voter profiling business.

British information commissioner Elizabeth Denham said she is seeking a warrant to search Cambridge Analytica’s London headquarters to see whether Facebook did enough to protect users’ personal information about themselves and their friends.  Weekend reports said Cambridge Analytica had improperly used information about more than 50 million Facebook users, including $6 million in work to influence Americans to vote for real estate mogul Donald Trump in his successful 2016 run for the U.S. presidency.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg News reported the U.S. Federal Trade Commission is investigating whether Facebook violated terms of a consent decree it had agreed to with the agency and allowed Cambridge Analytica to use the personal data based on information Facebook users post online about themselves.  Facebook has suspended Cambridge Analytica from its vast social network.

Several U.S. lawmakers have called on Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg to testify in Congress about his firm’s use of its users’ information.

“We want to know how this happened,” Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar said.  “What’s the extent of the damage?  Fifty million of these Facebook profiles were basically stolen, hijacked, including information of people’s residence.  And then how did it happen?  Why did it happen?  And how are they going to fix this?”

White House spokesman Raj Shah told Fox News that Trump “believes that Americans’ privacy should be protected.  You know, if Congress wants to look into the matter or other agencies want to look into the matter, we welcome that.”

Denham told BBC Radio, “We are looking at whether or not Facebook secured and safeguarded personal information on the platform and whether when they found out about the loss of the data they acted robustly and whether or not people were informed.”

Investors have reacted negatively to Facebook’s role in the data breach, with its stock price dropping by nearly 10 percent in the last few days, and the company losing billions of dollars in valuation.

British television station Channel 4 News broadcast surreptitious footage Monday showing an undercover interview one of its reporters conducted with Cambridge Analytica chief executive Alexander Nix in which he claimed to have used “a web of shadowy front companies” to influence elections.

According to the broadcast, with the reporter posing as someone who wanted to influence an election in Sri Lanka, Nix suggested using an attractive woman to seduce a candidate the client was looking to defeat, or sending someone posing as a wealthy developer to pass on a bribe to a politician.

After the telecast, the company said Nix’s answers came in a discussion with “ludicrous hypothetical scenarios.”

In a statement, Nix said, “I am aware how this looks, but it is simply not the case.  I must emphatically state that Cambridge Analytica does not condone or engage in entrapment, bribes or so-called ‘honeytraps,’ and nor does it use untrue material for any purpose.”

The company has disputed reports about its use of vast data troves from Facebook.

Facebook says its data was initially collected by a British academic, Aleksandr Kogan, who created an app on Facebook that was downloaded by 270,000 people, which provided not only their personal data, but also that of their friends they had exchanged information with.  Facebook claims Kogan then violated the company’s terms by passing the information on to Cambridge Analytica.

Britain’s Cambridge University, where Kogan teaches, on Tuesday asked Facebook for all information it has about Kogan’s relationship with Cambridge Analytica.

Kogan has told colleagues at the university he would answer questions from U.S. and British lawmakers, along with the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, about his data collection from Facebook users, but so far no one has asked to interview him.

$1*/ mo hosting! Get going with us!

Facebook Under Fire for Developer’s Data Mining

The Facebook backlash is intensifying.

Congressional leaders, regulators in the United States and Europe and state officials are putting pressure on Facebook to answer questions about fresh allegations over how the social networking giant was manipulated in the run-up to the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

 

The Senate Commerce Committee has sent questions to the company about how a data consulting firm, Cambridge Analytica, allegedly used 50 million Facebook users’ data to aid political campaigns.  British and U.S. lawmakers called for Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to testify.  The company is reportedly holding an employee meeting Tuesday to answer questions.

 

Among the tough questions the company faces is why it did not inform the affected users about the issue.  On Monday, the firm’s stock dropped nearly seven percent, losing $36 billion in value, Facebook’s biggest one day decline in nearly four years.  In early trading Tuesday, Facebook shares were down about three percent.

 

The probe over Cambridge Analytica is just the latest flashpoint around Facebook’s role in the 2016 election and comes as the company faces questions about how it should be regulated and monitored going forward.

 

With its more than two billion monthly users and billions of dollars in profit, Facebook has become a powerful conduit of news, opinion and propaganda, much of it targeted at individuals based on their own data.  The social media site and investigators have found that Russia-backed operatives had used Facebook to spread disinformation and propaganda.

 

In recent months, the company, along with YouTube and Twitter, has changed some of its practices to reduce the power of automated accounts and propaganda.  Facebook has said it would hire 10,000 security employees.

 

A professor and the data-mining company

 

Facebook’s most recent troubles began in 2013 when an app called “Thisisyourdigitallife” developed by Aleksandr Kogan, a Cambridge University professor, offered users a personality survey.  The users were invited to download the app, which then gathered user information about their profiles and that of some of their friends.

 

The professor shared data with Cambridge Analytica, the data-mining firm that worked with U.S. President Donald Trump’s campaign, according to The New York Times and The Observer.

 

While the gathering of the data was legitimate at the time, Facebook says the professor did not abide by the company’s rules when he passed the data to a third party – Cambridge Analytica – thus violating Facebook’s terms and conditions.  Facebook discovered the violation in 2015 and required Cambridge Analytica to delete the data, but didn’t tell affected users.

 

Cambridge Analytica has denied that it kept the data.  One Facebook executive in charge of security is reportedly leaving the firm as a result the matter.

 

Facebook suspends accounts

 

Last week, as the story broke, Facebook suspended the accounts of Cambridge Analytica and other parties, including the professor. 

 

Facebook says its policies around outside parties and data collection have since changed.  Now all apps requesting detailed user information go through the company’s App Review process.  The company has hired a digital forensics firm to conduct an audit of Cambridge Analytica to see if the data was deleted.

 

“If this data still exists, it would be a grave violation of Facebook’s policies and an unacceptable violation of trust and the commitments these groups made,” Facebook said

 

What to do about Facebook

 

In recent months, privacy advocates, regulators and lawmakers have discussed new ways of regulating Facebook.  At the moment, lawmakers are calling for answers.

 

“They’ve got responsibility to make sure that that information is used in an appropriate way, so we want to find out how it was gotten, how it was used, and we want Facebook obviously to be transparent about that,” said U.S. Senator John Thune, a Republican representing South Dakota.  

 

“I have serious concerns about the role @Facebook played in facilitating and permitting the covert collection and misuse of consumer information by Cambridge Analytica,” tweeted U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat.

 

 

 

$1*/ mo hosting! Get going with us!

Crash Marks 1st Death Involving Fully Autonomous Vehicle

A fatal pedestrian crash involving a self-driving Uber SUV in a Phoenix suburb could have far-reaching consequences for the new technology as automakers and other companies race to be the first with cars that operate on their own.

The crash Sunday night in Tempe was the first death involving a full autonomous test vehicle. The Volvo was in self-driving mode with a human backup driver at the wheel when it struck 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg as she was walking a bicycle outside the lines of a crosswalk in Tempe, police said.

 

Uber immediately suspended all road-testing of such autos in the Phoenix area, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Toronto. The ride-sharing company has been testing self-driving vehicles for months as it competes with other technology companies and automakers like Ford and General Motors.

 

Though many in the industries had been dreading a fatal crash they knew it was inevitable.

 

Tempe police Sgt. Ronald Elcock said local authorities haven’t determined fault but urged people to use crosswalks. He told reporters at a news conference Monday the Uber vehicle was traveling around 40 mph when it hit Helzberg immediately as she stepped on to the street.

 

Neither she nor the backup driver showed signs of impairment, he said.

 

“The pedestrian was outside of the crosswalk, so it was midblock,” Elcock said. “And as soon as she walked into the lane of traffic, she was struck by the vehicle.”

 

The National Transportation Safety Board, which makes recommendations for preventing crashes, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which can enact regulations, sent investigators.

 

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi expressed condolences on his Twitter account and said the company is cooperating with investigators.

 

The public’s image of the vehicles will be defined by stories like the crash in Tempe, said Bryant Walker Smith, a University of South Carolina law professor who studies self-driving vehicles. It may turn out that there was nothing either the vehicle or its human backup could have done to avoid the crash, he said.

 

Either way, the fatality could hurt the technology’s image and lead to a push for more regulations at the state and federal levels, Smith said.

Autonomous vehicles with laser, radar and camera sensors and sophisticated computers have been billed as the way to reduce the more than 40,000 traffic deaths a year in the U.S. alone. Ninety-four percent of crashes are caused by human error, the government says.

 

Self-driving vehicles don’t drive drunk, don’t get sleepy and aren’t easily distracted. But they do have faults.

 

“We should be concerned about automated driving,” Smith said. “We should be terrified about human driving.”

 

In 2016, the latest year available, more than 6,000 U.S. pedestrians were killed by vehicles.

 

The federal government has voluntary guidelines for companies that want to test autonomous vehicles, leaving much of the regulation up to states.

 

Many states, including Michigan and Arizona, have taken a largely hands-off approach, hoping to gain jobs from the new technology, while California and others have taken a harder line.

 

California is among states that require manufacturers to report any incidents during the testing phase. As of early March, the state’s motor vehicle agency had received 59 such reports.

 

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey used light regulations to entice Uber to the state after the company had a shaky rollout of test cars in San Francisco. Arizona has no reporting requirements. Hundreds of vehicles with automated driving systems have been on Arizona’s roads.

 

Ducey’s office expressed sympathy for Herzberg’s family and said safety is the top priority.

 

The crash in Arizona isn’t the first involving an Uber autonomous test vehicle. In March 2017, an Uber SUV flipped onto its side, also in Tempe. No serious injuries were reported, and the driver of the other car was cited for a violation.

 

Herzberg’s death is the first involving an autonomous test vehicle but not the first in a car with some self-driving features. The driver of a Tesla Model S was killed in 2016 when his car, operating on its Autopilot system, crashed into a tractor-trailer in Florida.

 

The NTSB said that driver inattention was to blame but that design limitations with the system played a major role in the crash.

 

The U.S. Transportation Department is considering further voluntary guidelines that it says would help foster innovation. Proposals also are pending in Congress, including one that would stop states from regulating autonomous vehicles, Smith said.

 

Peter Kurdock, director of regulatory affairs for Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety in Washington, said the group sent a letter Monday to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao saying it is concerned about a lack of action and oversight by the department as autonomous vehicles are developed. That letter was planned before the crash.

 

Kurdock said the deadly accident should serve as a “startling reminder” to members of Congress that they need to “think through all the issues to put together the best bill they can to hopefully prevent more of these tragedies from occurring.”

$1*/ mo hosting! Get going with us!

Self-Driving Car Hits and Kills Pedestrian Outside of Phoenix

A self-driving car has hit and killed a woman in the southwestern United States in what is believed to be the first fatal pedestrian crash involving the new technology.

Police said Monday a self-driving sport utility vehicle owned by the ride sharing company Uber struck 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg, who was walking outside of a crosswalk in the Phoenix suburb of Tempe. She later died in a hospital from her injuries.

Uber said it had suspended its autonomous vehicle program across the United States and Canada following the accident.

 

Police say the vehicle was in autonomous mode, but had an operator behind the wheel, when the accident took place.

 

Testing of self-driving cars by various companies has been going on for months in the Phoenix area, as well as Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Toronto as automakers and technology companies compete to be the first to introduce the new technology.

The vehicle involved in the crash was a Volvo XC90, which Uber had been using to test its autonomous technology. However, Volvo said it did not make the self-driving technology.

 

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and National Transportation Safety Board said they are sending a team to gather information about the crash.

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi expressed condolences on Twitter and said the company is working with local law enforcement on the investigation.

The fatal crash will most likely raise questions about regulations for self-driving cars. Arizona has offered little regulations for the new technology, which has led to many technology companies flocking to the state to test their autonomous vehicles.

Proponents of the new technology argue that self-driving cars will prove to be safer than human drivers, because the cars will not get distracted and will obey all traffic laws.

Critics have expressed concern about the technology’s safety, including the ability of the autonomous technology to deal with unpredictable events.

 

Consumer Watch, the nonprofit consumer advocacy group, called Monday for a nationwide moratorium on testing self-driving cars on public roads while investigators figure out what went wrong in the latest accident.

 

“Arizona has been the Wild West of robot car testing, with virtually no regulations in place,” the group said in a statement.

Democratic Sen. Edward Markey of Massachusetts, who is a member of the Senate transportation committee, said there must be more oversight of the technology. He said he is working on a “comprehensive” autonomous vehicle legislative package.

 

“This tragic accident underscores why we need to be exceptionally cautious when testing and deploying autonomous vehicle technologies on public roads,” he said.

Concerns over the safety of autonomous vehicles increased in July 2016 after a fatality involving a partially autonomous Tesla automobile. In that accident, the driver put the car in “autopilot” mode, and the car failed to detect a tractor-trailer that was crossing the road. The driver of the Tesla died in the crash. Safety regulators later determined Tesla was not at fault.

However, critics have expressed concerns about the safety of the technology, including the ability of the autonomous technology to deal with unpredictable events.

$1*/ mo hosting! Get going with us!

German Band Works in Concert With "Robotic" Instruments to Create Music Mix

German band Joasihno strikes a chord in a unique way as it takes its show on the road.

Currently touring in Canada, the two-man band works in concert with a “robotic” element that can play several instruments at the same time.

“Actually we call it psychedelic robot orchestra,” said Cico Beck, one of the creators of the band. “It’s a combination of acoustic instruments but also very trashy robot instruments,” he added.

Once hooked up to wires and set up, instruments that include a xylophone, drum and cymbal play on their own. Another contraption, a horizontal, self-revolving wooden stick, stands atop a microphone stand. The stick contains long strings tied on each end with a wooden ping pong-sized-ball attached. As the stick rotates, the balls hit a block on the floor, creating a hollow knocking sound. 

Beck said a computer is at the heart of the self-playing instruments.

“Most of this stuff is controlled by the computer. The computer can translate voltage signals, so the robots are controlled by the voltage, that is controlled by the computer,” Beck said. 

Playing in an experimental band with a robot orchestra is not the same as playing in a traditional one, said Nico Siereg, the other Joasihno member.

WATCH: Robotic orchestra

​”It’s a little bit different because you also have in mind that there are machines playing with you, so there’s no reaction from them.” 

Siereg said in some ways, once the robots are programmed, he is free to focus on what he is playing and even improvise. The musician said he can envision future scenarios in which technology plays a greater role in creating different types of music; but, he voiced hope that “real music won’t die.”

Even if the robots are not taking over the music world, Beck said it is undeniable that in the 21st century, music and technology are intertwined.

“Technology is like a very important tool that even, very often, it’s also a very important part of inspiration,” he added.

Joasihno performed several shows at the now-concluded music festival and tech conference known as South by Southwest, held in Austin, Texas. The experimental band is hoping its high-tech use of instrumentals will be music to one’s ears.

$1*/ mo hosting! Get going with us!

German Band Works in Concert With "Robotic" Instruments to Create Music Mix

German band Joasihno strikes a chord in a unique way as it takes its show on the road.

Currently touring in Canada, the two-man band works in concert with a “robotic” element that can play several instruments at the same time.

“Actually we call it psychedelic robot orchestra,” said Cico Beck, one of the creators of the band. “It’s a combination of acoustic instruments but also very trashy robot instruments,” he added.

Once hooked up to wires and set up, instruments that include a xylophone, drum and cymbal play on their own. Another contraption, a horizontal, self-revolving wooden stick, stands atop a microphone stand. The stick contains long strings tied on each end with a wooden ping pong-sized-ball attached. As the stick rotates, the balls hit a block on the floor, creating a hollow knocking sound. 

Beck said a computer is at the heart of the self-playing instruments.

“Most of this stuff is controlled by the computer. The computer can translate voltage signals, so the robots are controlled by the voltage, that is controlled by the computer,” Beck said. 

Playing in an experimental band with a robot orchestra is not the same as playing in a traditional one, said Nico Siereg, the other Joasihno member.

WATCH: Robotic orchestra

​”It’s a little bit different because you also have in mind that there are machines playing with you, so there’s no reaction from them.” 

Siereg said in some ways, once the robots are programmed, he is free to focus on what he is playing and even improvise. The musician said he can envision future scenarios in which technology plays a greater role in creating different types of music; but, he voiced hope that “real music won’t die.”

Even if the robots are not taking over the music world, Beck said it is undeniable that in the 21st century, music and technology are intertwined.

“Technology is like a very important tool that even, very often, it’s also a very important part of inspiration,” he added.

Joasihno performed several shows at the now-concluded music festival and tech conference known as South by Southwest, held in Austin, Texas. The experimental band is hoping its high-tech use of instrumentals will be music to one’s ears.

$1*/ mo hosting! Get going with us!

German Band Works in Concert With ‘Robotic’ Instruments to Create Music Mix

German band Joasihno strikes a chord in a unique way as it takes its show on the road.

Currently touring in Canada, the two-man band works in concert with a “robotic” element that can play several instruments at the same time.

“Actually we call it psychedelic robot orchestra,” said Cico Beck, one of the creators of the band. “It’s a combination of acoustic instruments but also very trashy robot instruments,” he added.

Once hooked up to wires and set up, instruments that include a xylophone, drum and cymbal play on their own. Another contraption, a horizontal, self-revolving wooden stick, stands atop a microphone stand. The stick contains long strings tied on each end with a wooden ping pong-sized-ball attached. As the stick rotates, the balls hit a block on the floor, creating a hollow knocking sound. 

Beck said a computer is at the heart of the self-playing instruments.

“Most of this stuff is controlled by the computer. The computer can translate voltage signals, so the robots are controlled by the voltage, that is controlled by the computer,” Beck said. 

Playing in an experimental band with a robot orchestra is not the same as playing in a traditional one, said Nico Siereg, the other Joasihno member.

WATCH: Robotic orchestra

​”It’s a little bit different because you also have in mind that there are machines playing with you, so there’s no reaction from them.” 

Siereg said in some ways, once the robots are programmed, he is free to focus on what he is playing and even improvise. The musician said he can envision future scenarios in which technology plays a greater role in creating different types of music; but, he voiced hope that “real music won’t die.”

Even if the robots are not taking over the music world, Beck said it is undeniable that in the 21st century, music and technology are intertwined.

“Technology is like a very important tool that even, very often, it’s also a very important part of inspiration,” he added.

Joasihno performed several shows at the now-concluded music festival and tech conference known as South by Southwest, held in Austin, Texas. The experimental band is hoping its high-tech use of instrumentals will be music to one’s ears.

$1*/ mo hosting! Get going with us!