Several years ago, when Jason Barnes lost his right arm to an electrical transformer, he thought he had pretty much lost everything in his life. After all, what good is a drummer with only one hand. But instead of succumbing to despair, Barnes tried a custom prosthetic to play drums. For some time. Then, a researcher at the Georgia Institute of Technology found him.
Now, Barnes is the world’s first, perhaps only, bionic drummer, capable of playing beats that aren’t humanly possible. And he has one man to thank for all of this – Gil Weinberg. You can watch Barnes’s journey in the video above by Freethink.
Weinberg has been developing robots and prosthetic limbs that can play music. He has already made two different prosthetic arms with the help of Barnes – the first was a prosthetic arm, resembling Luke Skywalker’s, that allowed those with amputated hands to control each of their prosthetic fingers individually.
Then, he fitted Barnes with a cyborg arm with two drumsticks – one that is controlled by Barnes, and the other that operates autonomously through its own actuator. The arm actually listens to the music being played and improvises its own accompanying beat pattern, which are pre-programmed into it. Which also means that the arm can play the drums at speeds four times faster than the fastest human drummer, thus turning Barnes into a super-drummer of sorts and the fastest in the world.
Barnes told IEEE, “The arm can play at speeds not humanly possible, it can also play strange polyrhythms that no human can play. It would help boost my creativity and my ability to play.”
The two have now launched a Kickstarter campaign for the “cyborg drummer” to raise funds to build a custom prosthetic drumming arm that Barnes can take on tour, since the one he currently uses technically belongs to Georgia Tech.
And if you’re curious, you can watch the Luke Skywalker-style piano-playing prosthetic in the video below: