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I Wouldn’t Dance to This Dumb DJ Robot

Prague’s Karlovy Lazne nightclub has recently embraced automation in the workplace. Its shiny new Kuka robot arm has been employed to lay down some of its beats. It rotates on an hourly basis with meatbot DJs, and was programmed by a Czech robotics firm to pluck CDs from a rack and toss them onto one of three decks in front of it. It even seems to interact with the crowd like any Eastern European house DJ.

If you can get beyond the fact that a Kuka robot arms costs tens of thousands of dollars and is clearly complete overkill for this application, there’s an obvious question to ask: how does it sound? Well Reuters asked one clubgoer who didn’t seem to approve all that much. “I don’t like the robot,” Marcia Lopes told the news agency. “It can’t feel what the people want to dance to. There is no emotion behind the music. When there is a real person, they know what fun is like."

And this is where I can actually make a serious point: robots and AI do lack social skills and empathy, and that is what will keep them from taking up jobs in hospitality, social care, education, and the arts. It also means they make for a DJ that doesn’t feel the crowd—which is why I probably won’t be dancing.