Calibrating an advanced set of artificial limbs, which rely on signals from the residual muscles in amputees, can be tedious, exhausting, and extremely discouraging. But when two researchers at Johns Hopkins paired up their work with Guitar Hero, they were able to make the process a little more fun, and lots more efficient, and very empowering for those who are coping with the loss of limbs.
"Air Guitar Hero" is the latest Wii-hab success; its results were presented Friday at an electrical engineering biomedical conference in Baltimore. It's a component of the U.S. Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency's "Revolutionising Prosthetics" initiative, which seeks to create artificial limbs that more closely mimic the functions of real limbs.
DARPA volunteers, such as a double amputee named Jesse, were ready to quit the standard calibration process after less than a day of work. First researchers developed a Pong-like game, but its ability to engage the volunteers quickly wore off. Then the scientists turned to Guitar Hero.
Long story short, they wired a controller to accept signals from the volunteers muscles and interpret them fret key presses and strums in the game. The recognition of these more complex signals sped up the calibration process, and also made it more of a fun challenge for the volunteer than a reminder of the difficulty he faces.
The highest scoring volunteer was able to get up to 70 percent. Think about that one next time you pull a real stinker using both hands. The researchers are hoping to develop a version of "Air Guitar Hero" that assists in the calibration of less-sophisticated, more commercially available prosthetics.