The musicians sat waiting, instruments tuned, at an unusual gala performance of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

For, as the audience finished rustling bags and coats, it was a 4 foot, 3 inches robot that stepped up to conduct the musicians.

Honda's ASIMO (which stands for Advanced Step In Innovative Mobility) had been trained for the charity performance by being programmed to mimic the orchestra's education director as he conducted a piece in front of a pianist 6 months previously.

In early rehersals of the aptly chosen tune, The Impossible Dream, ASIMO did slow the tempo and the orchestra lost its place, which was something a human would have responded to.

But all was alright on the night, and the performance went down to raptuous applause, to which the robot took a modest bow.