BEACON TRANSCRIPT – Do you fancy playing the drums? If so, how does the idea of having another pair of hands around suit you? No, we are not talking about another player that could help you keep the beat, but about a machine with a mind of its own and into music. The robotic arm enriches drumming experience and, in time, it could serve other areas of interest such as medicine or industry.
Everybody is impressed of how Lars Ulrich handles beats the living daylight out of his drum. Even though that poor drum would probably say something like: “Why do you keep hitting me so hard?” the sound it makes is amazing.
Well, it looks like you will be able to achieve the same sound quality with a little help from a gizmo coming straight from Georgia Tech. We give you the third arm, you very own drummer’s assistant.
This marvel of technology was created by none other than Gil Weinberg, the director of the Center for Music Technology. In the past, Weinberg and his team have been involved in several science projects, each of them aimed at developing a working robotic prosthesis.
This new contraption is far from aiding those people who lost their limbs in an accident, but it can soothe the beast in you with its playing. The third arm is basically your run-of-the-mill robotic prosthesis, but with an added twist, just to make it interesting: it has a mind of its own. Although the prosthesis is designed to aid the wearer in playing the drums, it has a mind of its own, meaning that it is capable of adapting in order to accommodate the wearer.
As explained by Professor Weinberg, the robotic arm has built-in proximity sensors, inertial sensors, accelerometers and even microphones. For example, if the drummer slows down, the arm will slow down too. If the drummer pumps up the beat, the arm will respond accordingly.
And thanks to its built-in sensors, the arm will be able to detect the position of the drums or there are any obstacles nearby.
Well, it all sound good on paper, but how does it perform? According to a couple of drummers who tested out the devices, it would seem that the arm won’t see the stage too soon. The arm is sluggish, doesn’t keep up the beat and it springs into action quite late. But, with a little work, the arm will become more acquainted with its users, thus improving its musical performance.
The robotic arm enriches drumming experience if the wearer has the time and energy to go over the basics.
So, the arm may not become the next Lars Ulrich, but it may serve others. For example, surgeons might make use of a third arm. It would be much easier for him or her in the middle of the intervention if his assistant knew exactly what instrument the surgeon needs. Of course, this will require a lot of robot potty training.