Robots for Distant Musicians

Robots for Distant Musicians

Yann Seznec brings us musically responsive robots controlled by anyone in the world in real time

The past couple of years of living with a global pandemic has brought around many unexpected changes to the way we live, work and socialise. One of our favourite artists, Yann Seznec, has created a magical and absurd work which makes the most of remote collaboration, allowing people to control robots whose movement only responds to musical notes.

Le Ballet Mecanique

Created during Yann Seznecā€˜s residency at the MICA Game Lab, Robots for Distant Musicians is based around a set of musically responsive robots. The robots can be made to dance and play games, controlled entirely by musical melodies played to them either directly or via the internet.

The robots use pitch detection to control their movements. This means that different musical pitches can make them move in different ways.


This very simple control system forms the basis for a wide variety of interactions, from gameplay to freeform exploration. The added twist is that the robots can be connected to the internet to be controlled live through existing communication platforms like Discord or Zoom.

This opens up a whole new world of remote competitive robotic sports, controlled exclusively via musical notes.

How to build a musically-responsive robot

Each robot is made of these main components:

  • A smart phone for connecting to Zoom or Discord (or any other communication platform) whose audio output is connected to the audio input of a Bela board
  • A Bela board running a Pure Data patch for analysing incoming audio and converting it to MIDI
  • A Teensy, connected to the Bela via serial USB which takes the MIDI and coverts it to PWM for controlling motors
  • The chassis, motors and wheels of the robot

Full documentation for this project, including code, bill of materials and technical information, is available on GitHub.

About Yann Seznec

Yann Seznec is an artist whose work focuses on sound, music, physical interaction, games, and building new instruments. We have previously featured two wonderful projects from Yann on the blog, jumpSynth and The Book of Knowledge of Impractical Musical Devices. You can find out much more about his work and research at

Yann Seznec self portrait on infrared film, Maryland 2020