Budding Musicians Hack Your Hand And Learn To Play

Budding Musicians Hack Your Hand And Learn To Play

PossessedHand, is an armband loaded with 28 tiny electrodes that could help amateur guitarists learn to play like pros.

Kyana Gordon
  • 27 june 2011

Interested in learning how to play a new musical instrument, but don’t really have the time it requires? Not to worry, just strap on PossessedHand, a device that takes hold of your hand and provides instruction on how to play without any input from your brain. A joint project by scientists at the University of Tokyo’s Rekimoto Lab and Sony Computer Science Laboratories, PossessHand sends pulses of electricity through the skin and into the nerves that power the fingers, and by altering the timing and intensity of the shocks, it could help beginners channel their favorite rockers.

After successfully hijacking a hand, the researchers attempted to teach it how to play the koto, a traditional Japanese stringed instrument. A koto player plucks the strings with all five fingertips and each finger produces a different sound. From the sheet music, the team were able generate instructions telling their device how to and when to stimulate the player’s muscles. Not enough force was generated to pluck the strings, but it helped beginners with correct finger placement. Players found it disconcerting to see involuntary hand movements, citing how it literally felt like their bodies were being hacked. Emi Tamaki of the University of Tokyo, who led the research explains,

the electric stimulations are similar to low-frequency massage stimulations that are commonly used. We believe convenient technology will overcome a feeling of fear.

Still in development, it can bend several joints simultaneously or in sequence, and could be the first to coax fingers into tackling a tune. Though not the first apparatus to trigger muscle movement with electricity, similar gadgets have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to help people with paralysis. The same nerve-stimulating technology created by PossessedHand could assist in the movement of an otherwise paralyzed limb. The tools currently available fall short when it comes to power and coordination. Nonetheless it will be interesting to see how PossessHand influences a new generations of musicians, its future contributions to medical technology, and reactions from guitar players who took the traditional route of practicing to hone their skill.

[via The New Scientist]


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