In 2012, drummer Jason Barnes lost his right hand and forearm in a work accident. The accident seemingly left Barnes unable to play and understandably depressed, but his passion for drumming and music was greater than his loss. In the most inspiring of ways, Barnes found a way to play again using a robotic arm. During the Georgia Tech Center for Music Technology Robotic Musicianship Concert on March 22, Barnes debuted his new robotic arm and gave the first-ever musical performance using the GATech robotic drumming prosthesis.
As he told audience members at the concert, it only took about three weeks after the surgery in which his arm was amputated for Barnes to get so bored that he started playing again. “I dragged my drum set out of the garage and proceeded to tape a stick to my arm to see if it was still possible to play the drums,” he said. While playing was painful at first, Barnes pushed on and realized that he could and would play again.
Barnes soon enrolled at the Atlanta Institute of Music and Media, where he met Gil Weinberg, the music professor and musical robot inventor who helped Barnes build the drumming prosthesis. The unique prosthesis allows Barnes to control his grip on a drumstick using his bicep and features a second self-playing drumstick. Watch Barnes rock his first gig using his robotic arm in the video above!