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Smart wearable robot makes three-armed drummers

19 Feb 2016

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Weinberg and a team of student researchers with backgrounds in music, engineering, computer science and physics built the arm after creating a robotic prosthesis for an Atlanta drummer. That device had two sticks, one with a mind of its own. The prosthetic arm allowed the man to continue his musical passion after losing an arm in an accident, while also making him the fastest drummer in the world. Its success led Weinberg to create the "third arm" robot, something that anyone can wear and become a cyborg drummer.

GIT research team

Figure 2: The research team that built the device. Left to right: Mike Winters, Roozbeh Khodambashi, Gil Weinberg, Tyler White (seated), Lea Ikkache, Hua Xiao and Mason Bretan

"If you have a robotic device that is part of your body, it's a completely different feeling from working alongside a regular robot," said Weinberg. "The machine learns how your body moves and can augment and complement your activity. It becomes a part of you."

The next step is linking the arm's movements to brain activity. The team is already experimenting with an electroencephalogram (EEG) headband that detects a drummer's brain patterns. They're hoping to identify patterns that would allow the arm to react when the musician simply thinks about changing tempo or instruments.

Weinberg sees other applications for the technology.

"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 said. "Music is based on very timely, precise movements. It's the perfect medium to try this concept of human augmentation and a third arm."


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