Professor Gil Weinberg has already built a band of robotic musicians in his Georgia Tech lab. Now he's created a robot that can be attached to amputees, allowing its technology to be embedded into humans. The robotic drumming prosthesis has motors that power two drumsticks. The first stick is controlled both physically by the musicians' arms and electronically using electromyography (EMG) muscle sensors. The other stick "listens" to the music being played and improvises.
"The second drumstick has a mind of its own," said Weinberg, founding director of the Georgia Tech Center for Music Technology. "The drummer essentially becomes a cyborg. It's interesting to see him playing and improvising with part of his arm that he doesn't totally control."
The prosthesis was created for Jason Barnes, a drummer who was electrocuted two years ago 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. It wasn't very flexible. He could bang the drums by moving his elbow up and down, but couldn't control the speed or bounce of the stick without a wrist or fingers. That's when Weinberg stepped in to create a single-stick device with sensors that responds to Barnes' bicep muscles.