This bionic drumming prosthetic transcends the physical limits of all but the sickest jams.
One of the greatest regrets of drummers everywhere is that we have only two hands to drum with. So when musician Jason Barnes lost half of his right arm in an accident, he thought his drumming days were over. However, an experimental prosthetic arm from the Georgia Institute of Technology has restored Barnes’ ability to make music – and even given him an advantage over every other drummer on the planet. Thanks to his robotic arm, he can play beats with three sticks at once.
The bionic arm holds two drumsticks, controlled independently. The primary stick is moved by a mechanism called electromyography, which reads electrical signals from the skeletal muscles in the upper arm and changes the behavior of the prosthetic “hand” accordingly. This allows Barnes to play with his right hand in a somewhat natural way. The other stick, interestingly, has a mind of its own. Built-in sensors listen to what Barnes is playing, and the on-board motors complement his rhythms with secondary beats.
Barnes succinctly describes the device as “pretty awesome.” The second stick’s autonomy does mean that he has a little less control over his notes, but at the same time it lets him play in ways that nobody else could replicate. Some die-hard drummers will probably call it cheating, but it works for Barnes; he’s making a new musical debut later this month, playing alongside musical robots built by the same man who designed the prosthetic. If all goes well, it looks like “transhuman jazz” could be the world’s newest music genre.