The Supernumerary Robotic 3rd Thumb for Skilled Music Tasks

by   James Cunningham, et al.

Wearable robotics bring the opportunity to augment human capability and performance, be it through prosthetics, exoskeletons, or supernumerary robotic limbs. The latter concept allows enhancing human performance and assisting them in daily tasks. An important research question is, however, whether the use of such devices can lead to their eventual cognitive embodiment, allowing the user to adapt to them and use them seamlessly as any other limb of their own. This paper describes the creation of a platform to investigate this. Our supernumerary robotic 3rd thumb was created to augment piano playing, allowing a pianist to press piano keys beyond their natural hand-span; thus leading to functional augmentation of their skills and the technical feasibility to play with 11 fingers. The robotic finger employs sensors, motors, and a human interfacing algorithm to control its movement in real-time. A proof of concept validation experiment has been conducted to show the effectiveness of the robotic finger in playing musical pieces on a grand piano, showing that naive users were able to use it for 11 finger play within a few hours.


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