Robotic Augmentation of people is starting to happen out there. We have exoskeletons that can help people to move, and control systems that respond to facial movement. But a third arm for better drum playing? That is exactly what Georgia Institute of Technology has created. According to Gil Weinberg, director of The Center for Music Technology,
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
The two foot long robotic appendage responds to user movement and audible signals. For example, when the drummer plays the hi-hat, the arm moves to take on the ride cymbal. And when the snare is being used, the robotic device goes on tom duty.
The project is being funded by the National Science Foundation, and the end goal is to augment the limits of what humans can do. The idea of music is an interesting choice because of the split second timing required and the use of augmentation to create art. The robotic arm responds to the user – the faster they play, the faster it plays. It can also improvise based on the current beat and tempo.
The next step for the technology is to interface directly with the musician’s brain. The team is already experimenting with an electroencephalogram (EEG) headband, and soon the robotic arm may be able to strike up a beat with just a thought. Moby Dick, anyone?