If you like robots or music even a little bit, you should really just go ahead and watch this video of Marv, a robotic vibraphone, playing "Flight of the Bumblebee" faster than any human ever has or ever will.*
On the vibes, at least, Marv is king. Created by three San Francisco engineers who are musicians themselves, the "MIDI Actuated Robotic Vibraphone" will be making its public debut at BarBot next week.
Thankfully, the team captured this early run-through on video, so those of us not in the Bay Area can be dazzled by Marv's performance. At first it seems like the vibraphone is playing itself, and you get that same weird, uncanny feeling when you come across a player piano. But then the camera moves closer and you can see what's really going on: instead of using two mallets to strike the bars, each note has its own tiny piston underneath which allows Marv to play pieces with wicked precision and dizzying speed.
As the team's website claims, Marv plays arrangements "far more complex than a human player could ever achieve," in part because of its ability to strike multiple notes simultaneously.
I like how at the beginning of this video one team member says, "it does something at least," as if what we're about to see is only a passable example of robovibes action. But once Marv gets going and the bumblebee is flying at full tilt, the camera pans to two of the creators who just nod their heads like, "oh Hell yeah."
Marv can be programmed to play along with humans, too, but I'm not sure I'd want to be the dude holding back this machine's incredible robo-abilities. I guess what I'm saying is, when it comes to mallet-based percussion instruments, bring on the singularity. [Robovibes via Laughing Squid]
*Some commenters rightfully directed me to this video of Tiago della Vega playing the piece even crazier fast, though I cannot verify his status as "human."