The way a Georgia Tech professor produced a automatic drumming arm


The way a Georgia Tech professor produced a automatic drumming arm

June 13, 2016Max BlauComments

Gil Weinberg
Gil Weinberg

Photograph by Josh Meister

A couple of years back, Georgia Tech professor Gil Weinberg been told by local drummer Jason Barnes, who’d lost his right arm after being electrocuted but desired to play drums again. So Weinberg’s team built a prosthesis that may hold not merely one drumstick but two. After Barnes grew to become a weekend sensation among the world’s quickest drummers. Weinberg then wondered, “Why not everybody?” Go into the brand-new “smart” arm, a 2-feet-lengthy artificial appendage that attaches to some drummer’s shoulder. Drum machine, meet your match.

Weinberg’s team wrote a code to process what the robotic arm senses. A series of algorithms controls where it moves, how fast it plays, and when it reacts to the drummer.

Lend a hand
Based on a drummer’s movements, the robotic arm can play different parts of the kit. Focused on the hi-hat? It’ll play the ride cymbal. Playing the high tom? It’ll cover the floor tom.

With feeling
Says Weinberg, “I hope robots will actually help humans create new kinds of music that makes you cry, laugh, or send shivers down your spine.”

Double time
The third arm isn’t just smart; it’s fast. The world record speed is 1,208 strokes per minute. The new arm can sustain close to that speed for as many encores as needed.

Through an algorithm, the robot listens to what the drummer is playing and responds accordingly. “If you play a sophisticated rhythm, it can answer you,” Weinberg says.

What’s next?
Weinberg wants the arm to react to a drummer’s thoughts. His team is now researching how to make the robotic limb respond to a percussionist’s brainwaves through an electroencephalogram (EEG) headband.

This article originally appeared in our June 2016 issue.



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