Lady Gaga & Dancing Piano
Lady Gaga performs a medley of David Bowie songs as a tribute to the late singer during the 58th Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, California February 15, 2016. Reuters/Mario Anzuoni

A National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) expert, appropriately named Andy Robot, is the man behind the dancing piano used by Lady Gaga on Monday, Feb 15. The “Born This Way” singer wowed viewers of The Grammy Awards with her tribute to recently deceased music icon David Bowie.

After a dramatic introduction to Bowie’s “Suffragette City,” Lady Gaga approach a rose-gold keyboard placed on top of two robotic arms about 90 seconds of appearing on stage. When she started to play, the piano moved to meet her arms. Then the musical instrument’s mechanical arms moved in and out to the song’s rhythm. But the dancing piano was steady enough for Lady Gaga to control its keys, reports Engadget.

Robot, a computer animator and roboticist with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of NASA, designed the dancing piano. He recycled software he had developed to program and animate the two industrial bots. These are the same robots used in an assembly line to manufacture luxury car brand BMW in vehicle factories.

The bots, designed to run for 30 years at full speed and in a dark place with no heat, have zero loss of accuracy. “We applied it to art at the Grammys because it’s similar to a mission-critical process where it can’t go down; it has to keep moving,” Robot explains.

He says the two robots had to move in synchrony to ensure the keyboard would not be torn apart. Robot points out that if one robot had gone too far to the left, it could tear the piano. They waited for Lady Gaga to finish the music then the team timed the robots by animating it with the music and synchronising in perfect unison.

By using inverse kinematics, Robot made the keyboard the parent of the two bots which resulted in the robots calculating their own skeletal systems motion to follow the piano’s movements.

While in factories, it takes Robot weeks to install the robot, for the Grammys he had six minutes to set it up, which he notes is challenging and heart-stopping. But it was worth it because Lady Gaga got a standing ovation for her performance, billed as multisensory and experiential, in the run-up to the show, reports The Verge.