Wearable Robot Transforms Musicians Into Three-Armed Cyborg Drummers

Credit: Georgia Tech

Credit: Georgia Tech

Researchers at Georgia Tech have created a wearable robotic, which transforms drummers into three-armed machines even the experts of speed metal would be jealous of.

The remarkable thing about this wearable arm, developed at GT’s Center for Music Technology, is that it’s doing a lot more than just mirroring the movements of the drummer. It’s a “smart arm” that’s actually responding to the music, and performing in a way that compliments what the human player is doing.

The arm's on-board motors keep the stick parallel to the playing surface for constant solid contact with the drums, human motion technology will keep movement natural, and it's built-in accelerometers make it aware of its position relative to the kit. Simply put, if you're playing a beat with a high hat, the arm will respond by playing the cymbals, or switch to toms when you're riffing on the snare.

“If you augment humans with smart, wearable robotics, they could interact with their environment in a much more sophisticated manner,” said Gil Weinberg, director of the Center for Music Technology. “The third arm provides a much richer and more creative experience, allowing the human to play many drums simultaneously with virtuosity and sophistication that are not otherwise possible.”

So what's in the future of this tech? The team would like to introduce an EEG headband into the mix, to see if they can link the arm's movement to your brain activity. To do this would require mapping the brain patterns of each specific drummer, so that any change in musical dynamics can be predicted. But beyond this, Weinberg wants to see the third arm used outside of music.

“Imagine if doctors could use a third arm to bring them tools, supplies or even participate in surgeries. Technicians could use an extra hand to help with repairs and experiments,” he commented. “Music is based on very timely, precise movements. It’s the perfect medium to try this concept of human augmentation and a third arm.”

This idea of using cyborg prosthetics to improve human performance has been in science fiction for ages, so it's really exciting to see the beginning of this in the real world.

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