Researchers at a Georgia Tech lab recently designed a robotic third arm that helps drummers keep the beat. The idea for the robotic limb came about after drummer Jason Barnes requested a prosthesis to continue playing music following the loss of his arm. This project eventually evolved into a tool to help improve the way drummers play.
The robotic third arm is an artificial attachment that sits on the shoulder of the person playing the drums. Using a series of microphones and built-in sensors, the robotic arm listens to the music being played and automatically adjusts its speed or complexity when necessary. Beyond maintaining a steady beat, the robot uses an advanced algorithm to improvise in ways that humans would never would. As lab director Gil Weinberg explains, "The response will probably be different—things that you never heard before, things that a computer thinks."
The hope is that the new machine will inspired drummers to think about music differently and play in unique ways that they would not otherwise do.