Gil Weinberg, PhD, founding director of the Georgia Institute of Technology Center for Music Technology, has created a robotic drumming prosthesis with motors that powers two drumsticks. The first is controlled physically by the musicians’ arms and electronically using electromyography muscle sensors; the second improvises from what the first plays.
“The second drumstick has a mind of its own,” Weinberg stated in a news release. “It’s interesting to see him playing and improvising with part of his arm that he doesn’t totally control.”
Created for Jason Barnes, a student and drummer from the Atlanta Institute of Music and Media who lost his right arm below the elbow, the new prosthesis has given Barnes capabilities he hasn’t had since the amputation.
With help from a National Science Foundation grant, Weinberg plans to expand his technology on robotic synchronization, which could potentially be used in the future by fully abled individuals to control an embedded, mechanical third arm during time-sensitive operations.
“Music is very time sensitive. You can hear the difference between two strokes, even if they are a few milliseconds apart,” Weinberg stated. “If we are able to use machine learning from Jason’s muscles — and in future steps, from his brain activity — to determine when he intends to drum and have the stick hit at that moment, both arms can be synchronized.”
Barnes will play with the device for the first time publicly at the Robotic Musicianship Demonstration and Concert at Kennesaw State University’s Bailey Performance Center on March 22.