February 15th 2014 was not just your normal Saturday night. Austin, TX club “Fame” is set to make history with the first ever robot DJ “employed” by a nightclub, replacing the usual resident DJs and doing a “better job”. Texas based independent programmers and robotics technology experts (not music experts) created the robotic phenomenon (named “Project POTPAL”), spokesperson Linda Howard stated “Our mission is to create the absolute perfect experience for the nightclub management, while still maintaining the simple “Push-Button” experience patrons are used to in major clubs. This is the perfect DJ Paris Hilton experience, except better.”
The ambitious project reportedly has no limits, it’s brilliance is in it’s simplicity. We had the chance to talk to project founder Jonathan Smith to find out some details.EDM Nightlife: “How did the idea for POTPAL come about?”
Jonathan Smith: “Well, we looked at the emerging issues with live DJs at major clubs and our research showed (based on interviews with nightclub management) that DJs should be more consistent and mindful about bringing more money for the venue. A robot DJ doesn’t need bathroom breaks, special rider accommodations, etc.. Less cost and more income, what could be better than that for a nightclub?”EDM Nightlife: “How can this system make more money for a venue exactly?”
Jonathan Smith: “It’s all in how it works. It’s pretty simple, really. The system is loaded automatically with today’s Top 40 EDM tracks and remixes and keeps a current Top 10 Beatport list downloaded through it’s built in satellite internet connection. Our research showed that this is already a 40% match to mainstream DJ experiences. We are content with this for now, since the project is still in heavy development with improvements on the way. We have built in so-called “beat matching” and “key matching” in the software, and part of the installation is 2 infrared and night vision cameras that observe the crowd. There are zones set up for the club floor, for now we have 3 of them: dance floor, bar and bathrooms. The system is constantly observing how many people are in each zone and maintains a maximum number of people at the bar consistently. Each song gets a rating by our staff and we have key songs to play to make people leave the dance floor and go to the bar. If the line at the bathroom is too long, the system slows the pace a bit, we don’t want to clog up the bathrooms, right? [laughs] This is the sure fire way to make sure clubs have a very steady profit at the bar and people don’t spend too much time on the dance floor dancing, which only costs the club money anyway. Clubs will have to expand their bars to keep up with demand…”EDM Nightlife: “So you said there are still improvements in the works, tell us what these are..”
Jonathan Smith: “Yes, we’re already working on a mechanical arm so the system can fist pump, giving the crowd an even closer human DJ experience. Most people don’t even notice the DJ is not a live human, for the most part they think it’s an artist in a robot outfit, clever gimmick. For now, we encourage the clubs to hire a minimum wage person or intern to be on the “stage” and do DJ poses, but pretty soon our system will be able to do this as well. Another improvement we’re working on is song requests. Basically we’ll have a touchscreen unit at the side of the “DJ Booth” (similar to a jukebox machine) where patrons can select a list of songs to be next. You simply feed the machine a $20 bill and you can have any song you’d like (from the list) played so you and your friends can hear your favorite song, even if it was just played 20 minutes ago. This would also make the club money, by the way. I’ll tell you one more, we’re working on a 4th zone for the system: The VIP tables. POTPAL will be able to play live announcements of table discounts, these VIP zones will have their own song-picking touchscreen units, of course these will only work with $100 bills or credit cards, since it’s so convenient to be sitting there anyway…”
The project is still in development, but other clubs have already showed interest in having this at their venues. They are even thinking about making a female version. One day, the system may even take over more people’s jobs (like lighting, VJ, sound engineer, etc…) and this would mean even less expense to nightclubs, they are just going to love these improvements.
By EDM Nightlife staff writer Dick “A-Bro-Ham” Johnson
For more information on Project POTPAL, visit EDMnightlife.com (this site) often.“With hopes that this article may make you think, in more ways than one.” To find more articles check out this page, watch our exclusive video interviews here. Need tracks? Reviews and free music HERE!