It looks like the reason Gibson's self-tuning Robot guitar had a limited run is that the legendary guitar innovator had a much more insane second stage already blueprinted up: Gibson's Dark Fire Les Paul-style digital guitar is the crowning shred-related scientific achievement of our time.
Think of it as the Robot plus the Moog synth guitar rolled into one. First and foremost, it's a guitarist's guitar, with three different kind of pickups—a humbucker, a single-coil and a bridge-mounted piezo acoustic—all capable of contributing their sound to an original, organic blend of totally real guitar noise. Having anchored itself firmly in Gibson's traditions, it's also got some crazy new stuff. Like the Robot, it self-tunes (now up to 500 times on a single battery charge), and using the "Chameleon Tone Technology" it is capable of producing "every imaginable guitar sound," says Gibson.
The company is quite proud of the Master Control Knob—presumably with a bit of a Tron shoutout there—though I can only imagine that the "sophisticated full color matrix display featuring LEDs and high-tech light pipe technology" takes a little bit of a hike up the learning curve. Those who know of Les Paul's guitar innovations will appreciate that Gibson is carrying on his tradition of complication as a necessary means for cooler guitar tech. Some of Les' personal guitars had tons of mostly unmarked switches on them, not to mention a few boxes off to the side. Speaking of boxes, a lot of the digital mojo is facilitated by the guitar's interface, the Robot Interface Pack, which has jacks on the front for the guitar and headphones. On the rear there's a FireWire connector (hear that, new MacBook shoppers?) and a hex connector, which can be adapted for MIDI output. The good news for suckers who bought the first-gen Robot is that the upgrade will be available to them at a price close to cost. (My guess is they'll make the money on labor when you take your Robot in for the upgrade.) Though Gibson won't promise "infinite sustain" like Moog, it does say that its body design makes "the Dark Fire one of the best-sustaining Les Pauls ever produced." Cool. [Gibson]