"OK, that doesn't sound like a good chord, right? So, Oh Boy, time to tune. Pull the knob out, and it's basically set for the normal E tuning. Tune it until you get all the lights here to flash blue three times -- which it did. Push it in, and now it should be in tune."
The guy tuning his guitar is an amateur player. The guitar is the Robot Guitar, as manufacturer Gibson calls it, which sold out in its first three days. The first in the Bay Area was bought from Guitar Showcase by a guy who made his name co-founding Apple computer, Steve Wozniak.
"Boy, I'll tell you," he laughs, "with my ears, I need a guitar that will tune itself!"
Some of the best guitarists in entertainment have them, such as Woo Tang Clan and Metallica, because it's not about keeping your guitar in tune; it's about changing your guitar's tuning faster during a performance.
For example, says professional guitarist Jack Van Breen, "Keith Richards, you take away his open G, and his show is gone. So, being able to go click... and then, when you're done with that song, you've got..." as he switches from one rock anthem to another.
Tiny electric motors beneath the keys are turned by a computer inside the body that listens to all the strings at the same time.
Terry Allen, guitar specialist at Guitar Showcase, explains, "It's actually transmitting the data and the voltage to run the motors right through the strings."
Wozniak sums it up this way.
"I love robotics in every little way. The Roomba vacuum cleaners, bought them when they were brand new. Little devices that do useful things in life. This robot guitar is one of those. My Segway is one of those things. It actually performs a useful function in my life."
Gibson's Robot begins at around $2,300, and competitors are scrambling to deliver their own versions in the next two months. Soon, it will be tough to find a new guitar without a computer in it.
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Guitar Clinics with the Robot