Musician becomes cyborg drummer with robotic arm

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

robo drumming
The robotic arm can carry two drum sticks in one hand.

Unlike most instruments, a full drum kit requires musicians to use all four limbs. So, when drummer Jason Barnes lost his right hand and forearm in an accident, playing became a lot harder! Now, however, he’s gained a new robotic arm made to drum, and its awesome features might make him better than ever before.

The robotic prosthetic (artificial limb) attaches to Barnes’ right arm and contains a tiny motor. Sensors on his biceps can detect electric signals sent from the muscles and the motor in a process known as electromyography. The more Barnes flexes, the tighter the grip on the drumstick; the less he flexes, the more loose the grip is. This way, he can control how much the stick bounces after it hits the drum.

According to the cyborg drummer, this new arm is better than the prosthetic he had fashioned for himself. It probably helps that the arm can carry an extra drumstick! In fact, a computer chip on the arm can listen to what Barnes is playing and add its own awesome sounds. He can also drum much faster than most humans can.

The overall effect is that his disability has turned into an advantage, as Barnes can play drumbeats that would be much more difficult without a computerized body part. Maybe Barnes could try and join the all-robot band Z-Machines! Then again, it’d be pretty tough to outmatch their 22-armed drummer…

Images courtesy of Georgia Tech.