After being electrocuted and losing his right arm in an accident two years ago, longtime Atlanta drummer, Jason Barnes, thought that his music career was over. But thanks to Gil Weinberg, Director of Georgia Tech Center for Music Technology, it means the beat goes on for Jason.
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And rocking out with his custom-made, robotic arm, it’s apparent that his extra “help” is more than just a prosthetic. It has a musical brain of its own. Here’s the story…
Half Man, Half Robot
We’re not talking about your typical prosthetic arm here.
You see, Weinberg has built musical robots his entire career. This particular machine is part prosthetic and part robot. And when Barnes approached him, he saw an opportunity to create something special…
The world’s first cyborg drummer.
With the help of two drumsticks, Weinberg began his masterpiece, and explains, “The first stick is about taking signals from his muscles with EMG and allows him to control the grip of the drumstick to create the kind of sounds that he wants.”
The second stick, however, is controlled by algorithms that translate the music into real-time, improvisational music.
Naturally, the arm took some getting used to… but Barnes says it actually improves the music: “It has a lot of potential to create a bunch of things that people have never heard before, because there are certain things it can do that are not humanly possible.”
In fact, the robot/human combo may lead to a new music genre, altogether…
Drummer’s Beat Gone Viral
Weinberg’s ultimate goal for his “cyborg musicians”: Not only to imitate human behavior, but extend it, expand it… and see how far the technology can go.
Rest assured, we’re not talking about the dangerous cyborgs portrayed in The Terminator movies! The main focus here is just music.
It gets better, too. Right now, the prosthetic is being fine-tuned, and will potentially evolve to include a neural interface. In other words, it won’t be controlled solely by muscle movement, but powered by thought, too.
As for Barnes, he just wants to play great music. And thanks to this incredible technology, he can check that off of his to-do list.
Ahead of the tape,
Tech Research Team