Ga. Tech helps amputee drum again with new technology

Updated:

Loading

ATLANTA - Georgia Tech scientists have come up with something you have to see and hear to believe. It’s a stylish "third arm."
 

Channel 2's Diana Davis reports its giving a musician who lost his arm in an accident a second chance.
 
It may sound like lots of jazz trios. Until you hear and see the rolls from the combo's drummer.
 
He's no cyborg, but in a way, 24-year-old drummer and amputee Jason Barnes has a third arm. His prosthetic was developed by Ga. Tech researchers with a grant from the National Science Foundation.
 
The first "arm" or part of the prosthetic receives signals from Jason's bicep. Those signals replicate how his wrist and fingers would work. 
 
The second “arm” or part of the prosthetic has a mind of its own says professor Gil Weinberg.
 
“Because it has a computer chip that actually listens to the music and tries to ornament and to improvise to enhance what he's playing. The idea is together that something unique will happen. It will not sound like electronic music, it will not sound completely like human music, but maybe interesting in a way that will inspire  him to play differently,” Weinberg said.
 
Barnes lost the lower part of his right arm when he was nearly-electrocuted on the job cleaning kitchen vents on a rooftop two years ago.
 
When he heard about the Tech research, he wanted to try it. Davis asked him about the learning curve of getting used to the prosthetic.
 
“Difficult definitely. Fun though, just learning something over again. You know, trying to get good at something that's always like a fun rush,” Barnes said.
 
Tech researchers said the implications for the prosthetic  could reach far beyond music.
 
“Imagine a surgeon with a third arm to do complicated tasks” Weinberg said.
 
English Def Leppard rocker Rick Allen, who lost his arm in a car crash years ago, has invited Barnes to his tour this summer. Barnes said Allen’s achievements as a one-armed drummer have been inspirational.
 
“Nothing is impossible, really if you put your mind to it you can get where you want to be,” Barnes said.
 
You can see Barnes play along with other robotic musical inventions in a free concert Saturday, March 22 at 8 p.m. at Kennesaw State University's Bailey Performance Center.



Channel 2 Action News

Delivered To Your Inbox