Georgia Institute of Technology researchers and engineers have developed a wearable “smart arm” that is helping amputees regain the use of their lost limbs, and is turning musicians into three-armed drummers. The arm allows a person to play multiple drums at the same time with the same intensity and sophistication as the drummer using it. The robotic arm attaches to the shoulder and responds to the user’s gestures and the sound of the music. Meaning that, if the tempo rises, then the smart arm picks up the pace. If the beat slows down, so, too, will the arm.
“If you have a robotic device that is part of your body, it’s a completely different feeling from working alongside a regular robot,” explains Gil Weinberg, director of Georgia Tech’s Center for Music Technology. “The machine learns how your body moves and can augment and complement your activity. It becomes a part of you.”
Researchers are also experimenting with an electroencephalogram headband, which would detect a drummer’s brain pattern, allowing the smart arm to react intuitively to the music and a musician’s creativity. But there are plenty of more scientific applications for the smart arm. “Imagine if doctors could use a third arm to bring them tools, supplies, or even participate in surgeries,” suggests Weinberg. “Technicians could use an extra hand to help with repairs and experiments. Music is based on very timely, precise movements. It’s the perfect medium to try this concept of human augmentation and a third arm.”
Images courtesy Georgia Tech/YouTube.