Meet the bionic drummer

bionic drummer

Gentleman, we can rebuild him. We have the technology. We have the capabilty of making the world’s first bionic … drummer?

We might be a few years away from creating super-powered bionic secret agent like Steve Austin in “The Six Million Dollar Man. However, Jason Barnes of Georgia is still grateful that technology has advanced as far as it has.

According to news out of Georgia Institute of Technology, Professor Gil Weinberg has already built a band of robotic musicians in his lab. His latest achievement is a bionic limb that can be attached to humans.

While he could bang the drums by moving his elbow up and down, according to a Georgia Tech press release, he couldn’t control the speed or bounce of the stick without a wrist or fingers.

Enter Weinberg, the far-from-mad scientist. The robotic drumming prosthesis he created has motors that power two drumsticks. The press release reports 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,” Weinberg, founding director of the Georgia Tech Center for Music Technology, says in the press release. “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.”

Barnes is ecstatic.

“Now I can flex and send signals to a computer that tightens or loosens the stick and controls the rebound,” he says in the press release.

Although the second stick operates independently, Weinberg says in the press release that the machine is still subservient to the man.

“Jason can pull the robotic stick away from the drum when he wants to be fully in control,” he says. “Or he can allow it to play on its own and be surprised and inspired by his own arm responding to his drumming.”

According to the press release, Weinbergis using a National Science Foundation grant to expand the technology.

“Music is very time sensitive,” he says in the release. “You can hear the difference between two strokes, even if they are a few milliseconds apart. If we are able to use machine learning from Jason’s muscles (and in future steps, from his brain activity) to determine when he intends to drum and have the stick hit at that moment, both arms can be synchronized.”