Tensorflow Good News Story

Jason Barnes, Tensorflow Powered Prosthetic Assistance

As an avid drummer myself, I regularly enjoy playing percussion based instruments and it is, for me, one of the most enjoyable ways to spend some free time. 

When playing musical instruments, every corner of the human brain becomes activated , this then improves other cognitive functions due to that simultaneous activation.

Music and the Brain :  Parts of the brain activated during a musicians performance


So for a musician, losing the ability to play music can be a devastating occurrence. As the musical genius, Mozart lost his hearing in his later years, he created mechanisms to allow him to feel vibration and so not completely losing the ability to create and play music. For a musician this stimulation becomes a must have drug, a release.


When drummer Jason Barne had a bad accident at work in 2012  where he was forced to get the lower part of his arm amputated. For this musician, this was a devastating moment, not just in the fact that losing the lower part of a person’s arm will be devastating for anyone, but for a musician, it is just that bit more devastating.


Since 2012, there have been large advancements in machine learning frameworks that have greatly assisted in all walks of life from space programs to medical diagnosis. ML has successfully operated alongside human workers in developing more successful strategies for completing work based tasks.


Tensorflow is the open source machine learning framework released and supported by Google, it powers many applications today such as advanced ML chat dialogue services. It is always nice to hear stories of when a framework like this makes a real difference to an individual, outside the normal advantages it provides in business. 


Electromyography (EMG) is an electrodiagnostic medicine technique that examines brain and skeletal muscle electrical connections that allow humans to operate limbs and other bodily functions. Jason has been working with a specialist named Gil Weinberg who is the founder of the Tech Centre for Music, based in Georgia, USA. They have created a prosthesis for Jason which is operated via EMG and Tensorflow.

The slight variants in movements created at the base of Jason limb generate electrical signals that would have allowed the past limb to move and complete actions such as moving and applying pressure on the drumstick while drumming. 

The electrical signals are now converted into streams of data where the Tensorflow python based framework can log, learn and process based on successes and failures.


“I can flex my muscle and it will tighten the grip on the stick, and I can extend the muscle to loosen the grip on the stick, just like it would on a normal hand. I can actually feel the feedback from the arm, and it feels as close to a real hand as you can get without it actually being a real hand.”

After testing and the introduction of the tensorflow based assistance, Jason can control the prosthesis in a very similar manner to that of his other hand in terms of drumming. 


Jason points out the difference between the Tensorflow based device and other devices.

“I felt lucky to be a part of this process. In the past, there has always been a learning curve with me having to adjust to a new device. But this way, it was the device that was adjusted to me.”