Two years ago Jason Barnes was electrocuted and as a consequence he sadly lost the lower half of his right arm, along with his dream of being a drummer. However, a new prosthetic arm has meant he can finally realize his dream. Working with the Georgia Institute of Technology professor, Gil Weinberg, Barnes has been able to upgrade a makeshift device to a robotic arm, which he has described as “pretty awesome”.

The device works by using electromyography, meaning it can pick up on electrical signals from Barnes’ upper arm muscles and follow the direction his arm is taking. By tensing his muscles, Barnes controls a small motor that moves the drumsticks.

James Barnes

The robotic prosthetic arm does give Barnes an advantage over the average drummer, allowing him to hold two drumsticks at once, which is very useful for playing more complex pieces of music. An embedded chip enables the two sticks to play at different rhythms; the first one following his directions and the second improvising.

“The drummer essentially becomes a cyborg,” says Weinberg. “It’s interesting to see him playing and improvising with part of his arm that he doesn’t totally control.”

Barnes will be wowing crowds when he performs for the first time at a concert arranged to open the Atlanta Science Festival on March 22nd.

“I’ll bet a lot of metal drummers might be jealous of what I can do now,” says Barnes.

[Image via nbcnews]