Japan's Hakuhodo i-studio has teamed up with the Yamaha Corporation to allow professionals and beginners alike to take part in live piano duets with an AI-powered partner. The Duet with Yoo installation is at South by Southwest (SXSW) this week, and comprises a piano running Yamaha's AI tech and a huge screen that adds a visual element to the experience.

"Yamaha AI Technology understands the human player's performance and plays a piano in harmony with the performance," explained Yamaha. "The AI analyzes human players' gestures and sound to anticipate their next notes and instructs our Yamaha Disklavier player piano to play accordingly."

The Yamaha AI Music Ensemble System has previously undergone a number of different test scenarios during its continued development, such as emulating the style of virtuoso Sviatoslav Richter while performing with the Berlin Philharmonic's Scharoun Ensemble string quartet and accompanying players of differing styles in live duets. It's even enabled a dancer to control a piano keyboard with his movements, and play along with the Scharoun Ensemble.

The SXSW installation will allow visiting musicians to play a duet with an AI-driven player, which accompanies the human pianist playing a Disklavier in real time by predicting appropriate tempo, timing and dynamics for an experience Yamaha says is just like playing with another musician. Hakuhodo i-studio adds a visual element to the performance by projecting visual representations of both players opposite each other on a huge display.

Visitors to SXSW Booth 1325 can try the system out until March 14 at the Austin Convention Center in Texas with a pre-programmed version of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, selected because it's considered fairly easy to play and is widely known. Future development will see players being able to select any piece of music, as well as expanding beyond the duet format to provide full orchestral accompaniment.