With New Robotic Arm, Amputee Drummer Makes His Own Kind of Music

Jason Barnes is getting a second chance to play the music he loves.

ByABC News
March 14, 2014, 8:42 AM

March 14, 2014— -- A 24-year-old drummer and amputee is getting a second chance to play the music he loves thanks to a robotic “third arm” developed by scientists at Georgia Tech.

Jason Barnes lost the lower part his right arm in an accident after being nearly electrocuted two years ago while on the job cleaning vents on a roof. He received a prosthetic third arm–designed specifically for drumming—from Georgia Tech researchers who developed the arm with a grant from the National Science Foundation.

The arm is actually comprised of two smaller arms. The first arm receives signals from Jason’s bicep to reproduce the actions of his hand and wrist. The second arm reacts to music being played around it.

“It has a computer chip that actually listens to the music and tries to ornament and to improvise to enhance what he's playing,” Gil Weinberg, director of the Georgia Tech Center for Music Technology, told ABC News affiliate WSB-TV.

“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 may be interesting in a way that will inspire [Barnes] to play differently,” Weinberg said.

Barnes says he is enjoying the challenge of adapting to the new arm.

“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 told WSB-TV.

Barnes is scheduled to play March 22 at 8 P.M. in a free concert featuring other robotic musical inventions at Kennesaw State University’s Bailey Performance center. He has also been invited to tour this summer with Def Leppard drummer Rick Allen, who lost his arm in a car crash. Barnes told WSB-TV he was inspired by Allen’s accomplishments as a one-armed drummer.

“Nothing is impossible, really if you put your mind to it you can get where you want to be,” Barnes said.