Jason Barnes wanted to become a professional drummer but lost his arm in an accident. His dream is within reach once again thanks to a robotic arm that allows him to play, potentially better than before.
The limb, designed by the Atlanta Institute of Music and Media, uses the electrical signals from Barnes' upper arm to react. By tensing the bicep he is able to control a small motor that changes the tightness of the grip on the drumstick as well as how quickly it moves.
But then the team took it to the next level and added another stick allowing Barnes to drum beyond the ability of a human-parts-only drummer. The second stick uses a microphone and an accelerometer to sense the rhythm Barnes is playing. An algorithm then adds a new beat to complement the melody modelled on the music of jazz great like John Coltran and Theonius Monk.
"This could change the way we interact with our instruments in the future," says Jack Baker, drummer with the band Bonobo. "It's not only a great step forward for amputees but for drummers who are willing to use technology. I would love to see it in action."
Barnes commented on the prosthesis: "It was pretty awesome. If it works out and it proves to be a lot more useful than my current prosthesis, I would definitely use it all the time."