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Self-actuation
June 27, 2011 8:08 PM   Subscribe

PossessedHand is ostensibly a training system for students of stringed musical instruments. It teaches fingering positions by means of electrodes that stimulate muscles in the forearm, forcing the hand into the correct configuration.
posted by contraption (31 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
Huh. I've wondered about something like this before. While practicing guitar, in an effort to get a little more speed out of my recalcitrant left hand, I've occasionally taken to grabbing hold of, for example, the index finger of my left hand with my right hand, and "operating" it with my right hand at a rate faster than what my left hand is able to do by itself, on the notion that maybe allowing myself to feel what it's like for my left index finger to move that fast will somehow help it actually be capable of moving that fast on its own. Didn't really have much success with that method, either because it doesn't work, or because I didn't do it enough, I'm not sure which, but it seems somewhat similar to the idea of this thing.

However, watching the video, it seems that there is no guitar or other instrument involved in the "practice session", so I'm a bit skeptical that it would be precise enough in the motions it invokes to be of much use in establishing the correct "muscle memory."
posted by smcameron at 8:20 PM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Tiger mothers should be all over this.
posted by Trurl at 8:24 PM on June 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


I doubt anyone is going to learn coordinated two hand guitar techniques like plucked harmonics or even basic left handed stuff like string hammering/pulling this way, but lotsa luck with your first strummed folk song, if Mel Bay's Complete Chet Atkins Guitar Method doesn't get you there.
posted by paulsc at 8:27 PM on June 27, 2011


yea the hand in that vid is a regular yngwie malmsteen alright
posted by nathancaswell at 8:33 PM on June 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ow ow ow. I'm sorry no. This sort of current hurts. No. Ow. No.
posted by strixus at 8:55 PM on June 27, 2011


So this is like a physical auto-tuner?
posted by DaddyNewt at 8:59 PM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Totally creepy. I suppose this would prevent beginners from building up some bad habits, but completely useless once you get past that initial stage. I wonder how this would work if the person was holding the instrument while being hooked up to the machine.


It does take one of my piano teacher's advice, "Practice doesn't make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect." to a whole new level though...
posted by astapasta24 at 8:59 PM on June 27, 2011


*cues infomercial music*

"Finally, a better way to learn to throw gang signs and stock-trading hand signals."
posted by isopraxis at 9:07 PM on June 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


This makes no sense. Artificially stimulating the tensors in one finger or all fingers is not the same as "It teaches fingering positions..." This doesn't "teach" anything, although it might build muscle if correctly applied.

There was a Roger Zelazny? book where the protagonist needs to get real strong quickly, so he takes a bunch of food and hormone pills and hooks himself up to a machine that artificially stimulates various muscles using pre-programmed patterns to realize the fastest strength buildup. He basically straps himself in for a week of torture and comes out the other side ready to be a space pilot or whatever.
posted by sneebler at 9:09 PM on June 27, 2011


I wonder how this would work if the person was holding the instrument while being hooked up to the machine.

There is a picture of someone playing in one of the links - no video as far as I see. It looks like it's set up for a kind of lap guitar, which has a different hand/wrist orientation than most Western string instruments

You know, my first instinct is to hate this (because damnit I learned violin the hard way) but that's mostly curmudgeonly old-talk.

although it might build muscle if correctly applied

At least for violin, building the right kind of finger-muscle is pretty important. And learning to flex the ring finger separately from the middle/pinky finger. I can see this being helpful for that.
posted by muddgirl at 9:13 PM on June 27, 2011


*cues infomercial music*

Tone your abdominals while preparing to serenade the harem of lovers you will attract!
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:26 PM on June 27, 2011


From the NewScientist article:
Tamaki and her team found that two beginner players made a total of four timing errors when using PossessedHand, compared with 13 when playing unassisted. After prompting from the device, the players also made one less mistake about which finger to use.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the players found it unsettling to have the device move their hand by itself.
The Rekimoto lab seems to have a whole bunch of projects on that border between cyberawesome and cybercreepy…
posted by hattifattener at 9:32 PM on June 27, 2011


Dr. T's overdue for a remake...
posted by Bwithh at 9:42 PM on June 27, 2011


Damn. If playing music is that important, why stop halfway? Drill a little hole in their head so they can be jacked into a computer sequencer. That way the world could be full of YoYo's.

Of course the music they play might be really sad.
posted by Twang at 9:48 PM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is like myoelectric music but the other way around.
posted by carsonb at 10:27 PM on June 27, 2011


If, in the course of using this product, my hand goes permanently "bad" and I have to chop it off at the wrist, will the PossessedHand company reimburse me for a snap-on chainsaw replacement?
posted by Strange Interlude at 10:46 PM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


While this has been done before (notably by Stelarc in his Stimbod piece, among others), the thrust of this research seems to be on predictable, smaller scale muscle control for an activity that uses one of our most nuanced physical motions.
posted by ianhattwick at 10:48 PM on June 27, 2011


Heck, if it could let me do what Mark Knopfler does, I'd be all over it.

I suspect it cannot.
posted by darkstar at 11:29 PM on June 27, 2011


IIRC, Isaac Asimov wrote a story about a violin teaching robot. A genial, elderly violin teacher was invited to evaluate the thing. During the demonstration, he broke a string on his violin, chatted with the crowd while he installed a new set of strings, and when he resumed playing, blew the robot's tiny little mind, because he had installed the strings out of order, and the resulting sounds were so far from what the robot expected that it couldn't cope.
posted by Bruce H. at 11:49 PM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is like myoelectric music but the other way around

Awesome idea! Hook myoelectric pickups into a sequencer and connect that to PossessedHand! Repeat!

Is this the plot of Human Centipede 2?
posted by hattifattener at 12:13 AM on June 28, 2011


I saw one of the grad students working on this tech give a presentation at CHI. She was very earnest, but her english was not the greatest. During the Q&A, someone asked "does it hurt?" She said, if my memory serves, "during user studies, it does not hurt, but I have worn it for more than 24 hours, and then it hurts." I could have the number of hours wrong, but.. interesting observation.

Also agree that the "teach music!" angle is mainly marketing. Right now control appears to be extremely limited, because as mentioned up-thread it can only tense the entire finger. I suspect the lab realized they could do basic muscle control, and said "okay, now what application can we propose to justify it?" Then again, I am totally a cynic.

Does win the "creepiest thing I saw at CHI" award hands-down though.
posted by Alterscape at 12:15 AM on June 28, 2011


What if someone reprogrammed it to mimic the hand movements of a murderous knife thrower?
posted by pracowity at 2:57 AM on June 28, 2011


I've long waited for the right moment to post a link to The Healthy Hands Foundation, a NYC based non-profit that claims to pay up to $2000 in medical bills for uninsured musicians with hand injuries.
posted by fourcheesemac at 4:24 AM on June 28, 2011


Brilliant! Next we use it for simulcasting concert performances. Yo Yo Ma plays in a studio in New York and random schlubs on stages in London, Djakarta, Buenos Aires, and Hong Kong simultaneously reproduce whatever he does for audiences of thousands. (Minimum wage drones, street buskers, maybe political prisoners, depending on the local labor market.)

Then we record the impulses for playback whenever, and you can buy your own copy of any performance that you don't just listen to but actively participate in. Be your own Eddie van Halen! (I'm assuming this will play mostly for the classical and retro-kitsch markets as actually playing an instrument is pretty low on the priorities list for musical superstars these days.)

Finally we develop web-based scripting languages that don't need to record from an analog human being but can generate the proper impulses on the fly so you can compose on your laptop, mainly by telling the software what existing songs you like, and then you play back music as it's being composed.

At that point, we've taken it about as far as we can with music and start applying the technology to other fields. Like manual labor. You know all those dirty jobs that Americans don't want to do? What if they just did them anyway, whether they really wanted to or not? That would solve a lot of problems, wouldn't it?
posted by Naberius at 4:35 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


The "learn to play a musical instrument" bit seems more like marketing than anything else. My first thought was that this would be far more useful to people with hand paralysis.
posted by Enron Hubbard at 5:13 AM on June 28, 2011


You could tickle yourself. Or...
posted by pracowity at 5:39 AM on June 28, 2011


What if someone reprogrammed it to mimic the hand movements of a murderous knife thrower?
for i in `jot 100 1` ; do punch_guy(hard) ; done
Sorry, man, wasn't me, someone hacked my arm!
posted by eriko at 5:55 AM on June 28, 2011


Yo Yo Ma plays in a studio in New York and random schlubs on stages in London, Djakarta, Buenos Aires, and Hong Kong simultaneously reproduce whatever he does for audiences of thousands.

Quonsar plays in a studio in New York.....
posted by eriko at 5:56 AM on June 28, 2011


Has no one else thought about using this for masturbation, where someone else controls your movements, or should I feel ashamed of myself?
posted by orme at 6:24 AM on June 28, 2011


"I know kung fu!"
posted by bwg at 7:54 AM on June 28, 2011


My piano teacher (and I'm sure she wasn't alone in this) used to smack my fingers with a ruler if I didn't curl my fingers properly. So, yeah...suck it up, guitarists!
posted by malocchio at 9:28 AM on June 28, 2011


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