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Robotic Bagpiper Will Perform at Glasgow International Piping Festival

McBlare rehearses for its performance in Glasgow.
Carnegie Mellon's robotic bagpiper, McBlare, accompanied by its co-developer, Computer Science Associate Research Professor and Artist Roger Dannenberg, will perform in Scotland at Glasgow's National Piping Centre on Aug. 10. Dannenberg will give a formal presentation the following day at the University of Glasgow.

Dannenberg has dressed McBlare in a kilt and will carry him on a tripod. He says his charge looks like a cross between a creature from War of the Worlds and a kilted piper.

"McBlare plays an ordinary set of bagpipes using an air compressor to provide air and electro-magnetic devices to power the 'fingers' that open and close tone holes that determine the musical pitch. It's controlled by a computer that has many traditional bagpipe tunes in its memory," Dannenberg explained. McBlare can also add authentic sounding ornaments to simple melodies entered through a piano-like keyboard and play the result on the bagpipes. Dannenberg says that in addition to the traditional tunes in McBlare's repertoire, he's written a couple of new pieces that bring bagpipe virtuosity to a new level.

McBlare was originally developed for the 25th anniversary celebration of the Robotics Institute by Institute Project Scientist Ben Brown and his colleague Garth Zeglin. Dannenberg, an artist and musician, volunteered to write some software and did a lot of construction and testing in his lab. After the robotics event, Dannenberg continued to experiment and work on McBlare, with help from Ron Lupish, a local bagpiper and software engineer.

He was invited to Glasgow by the head of the National Piping Centre and Director of "Piping Live" -- the Glasgow International Piping Festival (

For more on McBlare and to hear it perform, visit

Anne Watzman
August 9, 2006

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