New robotic arm opens up musical worlds for “cyborg” drummer

Ars Technica » Scientific Method 2014-03-11

Rob Felt, Georgia Tech

Jason Barnes has a new tool at his disposal that should help him in his quest to become a professional drummer: a drum-enabling robotic arm. The unique prosthesis was announced last week by the Georgia Institute of Technology.

As demonstrated in this video, Barnes, a below-the-elbow amputee, possesses a robotic arm prototype that allows him to experience three-way independence between his two arms—meaning that he can perform three distinctive stick patterns simultaneously. That's a technical capability unimaginable to most drum set players (the inimitable jazz drummer Eric Harland aside).

"The drummer essentially becomes a cyborg," said Gil Weinberg, the professor who created the robot. "The second drumstick has a mind of its own. It's interesting to see him playing and improvising with part of his arm that he doesn't totally control."

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