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Researchers develop a robotic third arm to give drummers a helping hand (video)

By midian182
Feb 19, 2016
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  1. As someone who briefly played drums in a college band, I can appreciate how helpful having a third arm would be when it comes to hammering out complicated solos. It seems that researchers at the University of Georgia also thought that drummers could use a helping hand, and have developed a robotic limb to help boost their skills.

    The project, from the University’s Center for music technology, aims to push the limits of what humans can do with robotics.

    The “smart arm” can be strapped to a drummer’s shoulder, and responds to human gestures and the music it hears. When the drummer moves to play the high hat cymbal, for example, the robotic arm maneuvers to play the ride cymbal. If the drummer then switches to the snare, the mechanical arm shifts to the tom, and so on.

    "If you augment humans with smart, wearable robotics, they could interact with their environment in a much more sophisticated manner," Georgia Tech Professor Gil Weinberg said in a statement. "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."

    What makes the arm especially smart is that it can it listen to the music being played in a room and improvise based on the beat and rhythm. It can slow down and speed up the tempo depending on what a musician plays.

    The robot limb uses built-in accelerometers to sense distance and proximity, so it won’t put a stick through a drum skin or get in the way of the drummer's actual arm. To make the robotic arm move naturally, the researchers used motion-capture technology.

    The next step for the team is to link the arm with the drummer’s brain activity. The researchers are experimenting with an electroencephalogram (EEG) headband that detects brain patterns. It’s hoped that this will eventually allow the arm to react when a musician simply thinks about changing the tempo.

    The ultimate aim is, of course, to expand the technology beyond musical instruments. “Imagine if doctors could use a third arm to bring them tools, supplies or even participate in surgeries. Technicians could use an extra hand to help with repairs and experiments,” said Weinberg. “Music is based on very timely, precise movements. It’s the perfect medium to try this concept of human augmentation and a third arm.”

    Check out the video below to see the arm in action.

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  2. davislane1

    davislane1 TS Evangelist Posts: 3,554   +2,361

    As cool as the arm is from a tech standpoint, this will never catch on in music because it is artificial and takes away from the experience of playing the instrument.
     
    Geforcepat likes this.
  3. SirGCal

    SirGCal TS Maniac Posts: 365   +136

    I agree, cool tech, bad for good music. Now to replace missing lims perhaps. Or for me, my legs no longer work.
     
  4. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 8,555   +2,898

    Why not set an electronic drummer without the mechanics instead. There is a reason why a person is still used as a drummer. It gives the music personality, something you don't get in automation.
     
  5. Raoul Duke

    Raoul Duke TS Guru Posts: 930   +354

    Want robot music, look up Compressorhead and Z-Machines.
    I'm much more excited about the possibility for prosthetic limbs that are significantly better than what is commonly available now. Hope this work is useful for that.
     
  6. Sniped_Ash

    Sniped_Ash TS Maniac Posts: 253   +108

    Still wouldn't be able to do the drum solo from YYZ
     
  7. Frixx

    Frixx TS Rookie

    Rick Allen laughs at this idea.
     
  8. fredderf81

    fredderf81 TS Enthusiast Posts: 51   +40

    Oh come on! as if today's music isn't fake enough!! most pop is just synthesized on a computer...none of these people can sing so they simply use an autotune...half of them don't play any type of instrument and most dont write their own music. ....wait this is perfect for today's 'music' entertainers...the artists will probably stay away from it.
     
  9. infiltrator

    infiltrator TS Booster Posts: 141   +21

    I think this robotic arm will come handy for Rick Allen.
     
  10. Geforcepat

    Geforcepat TS Booster Posts: 141   +15

    No thank you. I like playing the drums as is.
     
  11. Reachable

    Reachable TS Enthusiast Posts: 55   +8

    Or you could use two of these arms at once and play like Shiva.
     

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