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Dr. Squiggles

Dr. Squiggles is an interactive musical robot that plays rhythms by tapping. It listens to rhythm and plays along based on what it hears.

Illustration of a robot with octopus-like components. Photo.

Autonomous robotics meets rhythm research

Dr. Squiggles, the RITMO-designed robot, listens for tapping produced by humans or other musical robots and attempts to play along and improvise its own rhythms based on what it hears.

In this project, we are building a swarm of Dr. Squiggles robots. Each robot has a powerful onboard computer and is therefore fully autonomous, enabling the swarm to be completely decentralized. The robots are considered as:

  1. An interactive digital artwork
  2. A platform that will be used to study several of our key research questions
  3. A product that musical hobbyists might eventually have in their home, that would help them improve their musical skills

Flexible and customisable robotics

The Dr Squiggles platform is open, and by customizing the software and setup we can use it in multiple settings:

  • Explore human-robot interaction – what makes robots fun and engaging?
  • Explore how interactive robots can help people gain music-related skills.
  • To use an analysis-by-synthesis method to understand how rhythm works in human and animal brains.
  • Explore dynamics in a collective setting, with robots only or a mix of robots and humans.
  • Explore swarm behaviour – how can a large number of autonomous robots collaborate on a complex shared task like playing music together?

Images and Video

Three Dr Squiggles robots Playing Pipe Organ. Photo. Three Dr Squiggles robots together with 4 self-playing guitars as shown at NIME 2020. Photo. Three Dr Squiggles robots playing glockenspiels. Photo. Three Dr Squiggles robots with their creator, Michael Krzyzaniak. Photo.









Krzyzaniak, M. (2021). Musical Robot Swarms, Timing and Equilibria. Journal of new music research (2021):1-19.

Krzyzaniak, M. (2021). Dr. Squiggles Build Tutorial. In Make Magazine (Issue 76, Spring 2021).

Krzyzaniak, M. J.; Veenstra, F.; Erdem, C.; Jensenius, A. R. & Glette, K. (2020). Air—Guitar Control of Interactive Rhythmic Robots. In Øyvind Brandtsegg & Daniel Buner Formo (ed.), Proceedings of the 5th International Conference on Live Interfaces. (pp. 208-21) Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

Art Installations

Fibres out of Line at RPPW 2021

Strings Online at NIME 2020

Oslo Life Sciences Festival Light Walk

Air-Guitar Control of Interactive Rhythmic Robots at ICLI 2020 in Trondheim







We have developed two key software libraries for Dr Squiggles. The first is a general-purpose real time beat and tempo tracking library which is here:
Beat and Tempo Tracking
The second is called OpenSquiggles and is a framework for rhythm generator modules that Dr Squiggles uses to improvise music:
Open Squiggles

Interested in Participating?

Masters Students are welcome to work on Dr Squiggles. More information and suggested research questions are here:
Matsters Student Projects

Published Mar. 9, 2020 1:29 PM - Last modified Sep. 28, 2022 11:46 AM