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Hacking Arm Prosthesis to Output CV: Thought-Controlled Music

YouTuber Bertolt Meyer and his husband are building a SynLimb. This device attaches to his arm prosthesis, converting his thoughts into Control Voltage signals. These signals are usable on any synth with CV input!

Video Description:

Together with Chrisi from KOMA Elektronik and my husband Daniel, I am in the process of building a device (the "SynLimb") that attaches to my arm prosthesis instead of the prosthetic hand. The SynLimb converts the electrode signals that my prosthesis picks up from my residual limb into control voltages (CV) for controlling my modular synthesizer. The SynLimb thus allows me to plug my prosthesis directly into my snythesizer so that I can control its parameters with the signals from my body that normally control the hand. For me, this feels like controlling the synth with my thoughts. I show the prototype(s), explain how we put it together and how it works, and do a little demo.

My Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/bertolt-meyer
KOMA Elektronik: https://www.youtube.com/user/KOMAelek...
Daniel's Art: https://danieltheiler.de

The inspiration to just try this despite not being an engineer came from wonderful Sam aka lookmumnocomputer: https://www.youtube.com/lookmumnocomp...
The inspiration to venture into modular synthesis in the first place came from the wonderful mylarmelodies: https://www.youtube.com/user/hello6am

March 05, 2020  | person_outline Tim Webb
Why does everyone keep calling this “thought-controlled”? It’s nerve impulse-triggered. You attempt to make motions on the missing limb part, and the sensors respond to the nerve impulses from the remaining nerves on the remaining part of the limb. It’s a bit of a stretch to call that “thought-controlled”, but hey, it sounds cool, right? Or is this one literally wired into the person’s brain? Do we call motor impulses thoughts? I can think about moving my arm all day and not actually do it.
March 06, 2020  | person dysamoria
@dysamoria: I've recently been studying neuroscience (because when my ADHD is treated, I do that now apparently) and can respect your distinction. The reason I called it "thought-controlled" was because the full title of the video is:

Hacking my arm prosthesis to output CV so that it plugs into my synth: Thought-controlled music!

I just shortened his title. I mean... he does have to think about sending those specific nerve impulses! I can't imagine what that's like, but it is probably not quite as easy as you or I thinking to move our hands.
On March 06, 2020 - @Tim Webb said:
@dysamoria: I've recently been studying neuroscience (because when my ADHD is treated, I do that now apparently) and can respect your distinction. The reason I called it "thought-controlled" was because the full title of the video is:

Hacking my arm prosthesis to output CV so that it plugs into my synth: Thought-controlled music!

I just shortened his title. I mean... he does have to think about sending those specific nerve impulses! I can't imagine what that's like, but it is probably not quite as easy as you or I thinking to move our hands.

Agreed, it’s not as easy. Prosthetic users need to be trained to make “motions” they wouldn’t necessarily have made to do the things they want the prosthetic to do (using more general nerve impulses instead of finer motor impulses). Maybe you would move your nonexistent hand fully outward to open the prosthetic hand, or some such thing. It really depends on the specific prosthesis and damage done to the limb (what nerves there are to work with).

IIRC: The placing of sensors is custom, because every person and situation is somewhat different, making that part of a prosthesis not a candidate for mass production.

They’re getting more advanced with more complex signal processors/interpreters and nerve activation combinations, putting many more sensors on people (on scalp, embedded, etc),, but I think that’s mostly still research and temporary tech (there’s a fascinating video on YouTube of a man with no arms being used to research entire arm replacement; he’s operating two fully articulated arms, tethered to a full-sized computer).

Still, in terms of language, what’s going on now is better described, IMO, as a bio-mechanical action rather than a “thought”.

I’m not picking on your title in specific. It’s just that this is common language usage regarding prosthetics and other “primitive” tech that responds to externally mounted nerve sensors. We don’t have nearly enough understanding of the brain to call anything “thought controlled”. We can only capture patterns of nerve impulses on easily accessed spots of the body and use them to drive external hardware as foreign. Cybernetics as seen in sci-fi isn’t even close.

I’m sure some would view my distinction as pedantic,, but I think it matters that we define things, and talk about them as accurately as possible. Most sci-fi is better named “techno-fantasy” because of the impossible tech showcased, and it has an impact on how average people think about humanity’s technical capability (now or in the near future).
March 07, 2020  | person dysamoria
On March 07, 2020 - @dysamoria said:
I’m not picking on your title in specific. It’s just that this is common language usage regarding prosthetics and other “primitive” tech that responds to externally mounted nerve sensors. We don’t have nearly enough understanding of the brain to call anything “thought controlled”. We can only capture patterns of nerve impulses on easily accessed spots of the body and use them to drive external hardware as foreign. Cybernetics as seen in sci-fi isn’t even close.

I’m sure some would view my distinction as pedantic,, but I think it matters that we define things, and talk about them as accurately as possible. Most sci-fi is better named “techno-fantasy” because of the impossible tech showcased, and it has an impact on how average people think about humanity’s technical capability (now or in the near future).

I agree with you on both counts. You are being pedantic. 🤣 But I share your disappointment with our slow technological progress in cybernetics. I can see how you would find this nomenclature annoying. Like when those awful Chinese death traps came out in 2015, and everyone called them "Hover Boards" as if these were the fulfillment of the hoverboards we saw in Back to the Future. God that pissed me off so much.

As I age, I feel increasingly disappointed by many fields of science that have not kept up with my expectations. The slow pace of Cybernetics and neuroscience are a big concern for me, because I was planning on going full RoboCop as I aged and my shit started to fail on me.
On March 07, 2020 - @Tim Webb said:

I agree with you on both counts. You are being pedantic. 🤣 But I share your disappointment with our slow technological progress in cybernetics. I can see how you would find this nomenclature annoying. Like when those awful Chinese death traps came out in 2015, and everyone called them "Hover Boards" as if these were the fulfillment of the hoverboards we saw in Back to the Future. God that pissed me off so much.

As I age, I feel increasingly disappointed by many fields of science that have not kept up with my expectations. The slow pace of Cybernetics and neuroscience are a big concern for me, because I was planning on going full RoboCop as I aged and my shit started to fail on me.

😅

The hover boards thing pissed me off too!

I have a friend who keeps thinking she will be able to upload her mind to an android body before her own body fails on her. We are centuries away from fully understanding the brain, and there will never be such a thing as “uploading” a human mind. The brain is the mind. It’s not hardware that runs software. The structure of the brain is what makes us who we are. At best, you might copy that structure with some as-yet-uninvented (and likely also physically impossible) measuring technology (which would probably be destructive to a brain being measured) and create a replication of that structure in some other medium (unlikely) with some tool to manipulate individual molecules (also unlikely to be ever much better than the creation of research institution logos by moving atoms around on a plate).

There are physical limits. We are most of the way there.

I grew up on sci-fi. Most of it is pure fantasy. I’m disappointed, but I’m also still hopeful about what else we might yet accomplish ... if we stop wasting most of our time and resources killing each other and competing for the most wealthy corpse. We need to accept that which is, instead of waiting for that which can never be (because physics).
March 08, 2020  | person dysamoria
Admittedly I have not made a habit of visiting discchord.com for long and my hours are not filled with hardware hacking, or even music creation, nor have I ever been anything but darn lucky when I choose who my parents would be in this world, but, this video was really inspirational. Interesting on so many levels. The individuals involved are to be commended of course. None of this is 'new-new' but that isn't what I find profound at this particular moment. It is hard to put into text. Suffice to say, if I and my cohort had seen this video when we were young, dumb, and full of ... we would of been gobsmacked by what we saw. One, of many, take-away from this video, it's context, the prior comments, etc is the fantastical capacity of Homo sapiens to convert the 'new-new' into the 'new-normal.' I think it is called "Progress."
March 10, 2020  | person_outline Crowfly
Oh ye of little fatith, the scifried future has arrived:

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/06/190619142542.htm

Cheers! Oh and please send toilet paper!
March 27, 2020  | person_outline Crowfly
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