It won not only thanks to the complexity of the mouthpiece design, but also because it actually played competently. Perhaps not to professional human musician standards, and more of that later, but better than any robot I've ever heard.
Superficially it all looks rather simplistic, just a bunch of brass plungers with rubber feet that control the keys as you might expect.
However, look closer and you will realise that there is much more to this robotic prodigy than that. For a start, it is actually a complete embedded computer system that is connected to those plungers, actuators to be precise, courtesy of some complex and custom built electronics.
At the heart of all of this is an Arm processor running an Open Embedded Linux distro, responsible for processing the music and reacting to the series of events that triggers. A second, non-Linux, CPU powers the micro-controller.
Dr John Judge, head of the project from NICTA, insists that all the sensitive and essential musical timing is being done on the Linux side though. He told Computerworld "we're actually sending a stream of midi-events to the micro-controller and it just reacts to each event as a node-on/node-off type thing."
Well, that's that all cleared up then.
However, when the obvious question of whether it is better than a human being from a purely musical perspective is asked, the equally obvious answer if forthcoming. No.
Truth be told, I can play neither on the clarinet nor any other musical instrument for that matter. I am a dab hand with Guitar Hero, but I doubt I would win any awards for that.
NICTA, a national organisation with labs in Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne and Sydney, was established in 2002 with a simple objective: to become a world-class research institute and centre of excellence as far as science and innovation are concerned.
With the debut of this Linux powered musical robot, I think you can safely say it is living the dream...