Robotic Drumming Prosthesis Gives Amputee More Control & Creativity

Georgia Tech professor Gil Weinberg has created a robotic drumming prosthesis with motors to power two drumsticks. The first stick is controlled both physically by a musician's arms, and electronically using electromyography muscle sensors. The other stick "listens" to the music being played and improvises. Weinberg created the prosthesis for Jason Barnes, a drummer who was electrocuted and lost his right arm below the elbow. The Atlanta Institute of Music and Media student built his own prosthetic device shortly after the accident but it wasn't very flexible. "Now I can flex and send signals to a computer that tightens or loosens the stick and controls the rebound," says Barnes. Weinberg, who is using a National Science Foundation grant to expand the technology, says that such robotic synchronization technology could be used in the future by fully abled humans to control an embedded, mechanical third arm during time-sensitive operations. His anticipation algorithms could be used to help astronauts or surgeons perform complex, physical tasks in synchronization with robotic devices.