VIDEO: The Cyborg Drummer * 2024
VIDEO: The Cyborg Drummer * 2024

The Cyborg Drummer

In 2012, the drummer Jason Barnes was cleaning an exhaust du+¡ct when he was electrocuted by 22,000 volts of electricity. He lost his right hand and believed his days as a musician were done. That’s when Gil Weinberg, professor of musical technology at Georgia Tech, stepped in with a robotic hand that gave Barnes his drumming abilities back. In this documentary, explore this particular juncture of music and technology—what it has meant for Barnes and what it could mean for the future of music in the age of artificial intelligence.


What’s up with Jason Barnes these days?

Musician Jason Barnes had part of his arm amputated in 2012, but with the help of a team at Georgia Tech led by prosthetics researcher Gil Weinberg he has found new ways to keep honing his music skills. In 2014, the team developed a novel drumming prosthetic that allowed Barnes to keep pounding away, and they’ve now come up with an even more advanced prosthetic that is capable of the finer control required for the keys of a piano.

Barnes had his right arm amputated just below the elbow following an electrocution accident at work five years ago. While his hand and most of his forearm were lost, he retained some muscles in his residual limb responsible for controlling his fingers, which does allow him some degree of finger movement using an everyday prosthesis.

Who is Jason Barnes?

Born in Guam, and moving to the United States at a young age, Jason has grown up in different countries around the world. From Guam to Seattle, and Seattle to Honduras, then eventually moving back to the U.S. in 2000, Jason and his family settled in Atlanta, Georgia, where he currently resides.

Jason has been involved with music from a young age. His father Michael Barnes was a well known musician in Australia throughout the 1970s and is also who inspired him to get involved with music. Picking up the Guitar, Bass and eventually Drums, Jason spent his teen years playing in various bands from Metal, to Reggae, to Blues.

When Jason was 22, he was involved in an unfortunate accident at work where he was electrocuted which ultimately led to the amputation of his right hand. The following year Jason focused on recovering, and restoring his life as a musician. He developed his own prosthesis specifically for playing drums.

Like his dad, he was a musician and had been since he was a child

While his dad played the guitar, Jason played the drums. So, it was with a heavy heart that after a half dozen surgeries, Jason was forced to agree with his doctors that  his right hand needed to be amputated.

That should have been the end of Jason’s musical history. But, after he returned home from the hospital, Jason taped a drumstick to the bandage on his stump and started drumming again. Later, Jason created his own prosthetic arm in an attempt to be able to play the drums better. He was accepted into the drumming program at the Atlanta Institute of Music in 2013.

Gil had been developing robotic musicians–robots which ‘listen’ to music and improvise an accompaniment to go with the music which is being played. Jason’s curiosity got the better of him, and he emailed Gil to see if they could work together.

They collaborated and created a robotic drumming arm, a myoelectric unit which relies on Jason’s muscles and grip, but also ‘listens’ to what Jason is playing with his other hand and what other musicians are playing, and improvises. So, the arm ended up having two sticks–one which is controlled by Jason, and the other, which either composes or is controlled by the compositions which are fed into it.

Now, Jason has started a kickstarter fund, so he can not only have a portable bionic drumming arm, but also be able to go play on tour with other musicians–which, because of Georgia Tech’s current policies, he currently isn’t able to do.

Jason Barnes is a musician again with a robotic hand * Todo lo relacionado