Looking to be the world's best violinist or fastest banjo player? If you didn't start practicing when you were a kid, learning a new stringed instrument is extremely challenging. But an upcoming device may change all of that, if you don't mind being shocked by 28 different electrodes.
PossessedHand can help you play a tune perfectly by electrically stimulating the muscles in your forearm that control your fingers. It consists of two belts with 14 electrodes each, and when properly calibrated, can flex your finger joints and wrist movements with stimulation levels ranging from 17 to 29 volts. The device can be preprogrammed to play any score, but the electrical shocks do not create enough force to actually pluck the strings, making this a simple learning tool to help identify correct finger positions.
The kinds of devices have been made before, but they've all involved electrodes embedded in the skin or clunky glove-like objects. Emi Tamaki of the University of Tokyo states that PossessedHand is better and more comfortable. "The electric stimulations are similar to low-frequency massage stimulations that are commonly used," she says.
So could this make you a better musician? Maybe. But there's a big difference between learning one song and being a competent musician. It might better be served as a tool to help rehabilitate stroke victims and other persons with impaired muscle control. Therapists already use electrical muscle stimulation for this purpose, but the current non-invasive devices cannot replicate such specific movements, only crude movements like contracting an entire arm.