James Barnes Bionic Drummer
Photo credit: Georgia Tech
Georgia Tech professor Gil Weinberg created an innovative prosthesis for Jason Barnes, a drummer who was electrocuted and lost his right arm below the elbow. Simply put, it’s a single-stick device with sensors that responds to Barnes’ bicep muscles. When he flexes, it sends signals to a computer that tightens or loosens the stick and controls the rebound. Read more for a video and additional information.

Jason is capable of pulling the robotic stick away from the drum when he wants to be fully in control or he can allow it to play on its own and just enjoy the arm responding to his drumming. In the future, such robotic synchronization technology could potentially be used by fully-abled humans to control an embedded, mechanical third arm during time-sensitive operations.

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The second drumstick has a mind of its own. 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,” said Weinberg, founding director of the Georgia Tech Center for Music Technology.