Drummers can now have a third arm that can assist them while playing, thanks to researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology.
A team of researchers at the institute have devised a robotic limb that can be attached to one's shoulder. The wearable robotic limb, which is 2 feet long, is not only able to respond to human gestures, but also the music it hears.
When a drummer begins to play the hi-hat cymbal for instance, the third arm maneuvers itself to play the ride cymbal. When the musician shifts attention to the snare, the robotic arm also moves to the tom.
The project is funded by the National Science Foundation and is overseen by Gil Weinberg, a professor and the director of the Center for Music Technology at Georgia Tech. According to Weinberg, the aim of the project is to test the limits of what human beings are capable of.
"If you augment humans with smart, wearable robotics, they could interact with their environment in a much more sophisticated manner. The third arm provides a much richer and more creative experience, allowing the human to play many drums simultaneously with virtuosity and sophistication that are not otherwise possible," says Weinberg.
The mechanical arm is smart for several reasons. Not only can it have the knowledge of what it needs to play by hearing the music, but it is also able to improvise on the basis of rhythm and beats. The researchers explain that if the drummer is playing at a slow speed, the arm also reduces the tempo. If the musician increases the speed, the arm plays faster.
The robotic limb also shows its intelligence in the fact that it is aware of where it is located, the placement of the drums, as well as the proximity and direction of the human arms. The robotic arm is able to sense the proximity and distance thanks to built-in accelerometers.
The mechanical arm's on-board motor ensures that the drumstick remains aligned to the playing area's surface. It also helps the arm in rising, twisting or lowering to make sure there is proper contact with the cymbal or drum.
For those wondering how the arm is able to move seamlessly with intuitive gestures, it is because it has been programmed by deploying human motion capture technology.
The researchers are currently working on ways to link the movements of the robotic arm to a user's brain activity. They are currently experimenting with an EEG headband that is able to detect the brain patterns of the drummer. The identification of patterns will enable the arm to react in tandem with the musician's thought process of altering instruments or tempo.
Check out the video of the third arm in action below.