Researchers at Georgia Tech have transformed an ordinary drummer into a cyborg with three arms. See how his music is completely transformed.

The two-foot long smart arm was attached to the drummer’s shoulder and is capable of responding to the music it hears.

That means if the drummer decides to go with a slow tempo, the robot arm will hear that shift and follow suit.

The robot arm will also respond to human gestures, meaning if the drummer reaches for the high hat cymbal, the robot arm will shift over to the ride cymbal. If the drummer shifts to the snare, the robot arm takes its talents to the tom, and so on.

“We believe if you augment humans with technology, humans will be able to do much more,” Gil Weinberg, director of the Center for Music Technology at Georgia Tech who oversee the robot arm project, said in a video about the technology. “We thought that music was a great medium to try that.”

The robot arm is equipped with accelerometers, which gives it spacial awareness. This is what allows the robot to move from one part of the drum set to the other intuitively, the press release reads. On-board motors also ensure the sticks are being held parallel to the playing surface.

That headband the cyborg drummer is wearing is an electroencephalogram (EEG) headband that measures brain waves. The researchers hope this will help them identify brain patterns that would allow the robot arm to react based on what the drummer is thinking.

Weinberg said in the video that the robot arm becomes an extension of the wearer’s body — truly transforming him into a cyborg.

“Machines are not separating humans, but becoming a part of humans,” he said.

The robot arm was created after Weinberg and his team of student researchers built a robot prosthesis for a drummer who lost his right arm below the elbow after getting electrocuted.

The robot prosthesis held two sticks: one that was controlled physically by the drummer and the other that had a mind of its own. The stick with a mind of its own was equipped with electromyography (EMG) muscle sensors, allowing the drummer to control it by flexing:

“Now I can flex and send signals to a computer that tightens or loosens the stick and controls the rebound,” Jason Barnes, the drummer with the robot prosthesis, said in a press release.

There are other applications for this technology beyond drumming, Weinberg adds.

“Imagine if doctors could use a third arm to bring them tools, supplies or even participate in surgeries,” he said. “Technicians could use an extra hand to help with repairs and experiments.”

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