In 69 Joe Cocker jumped around the stage caressing an imaginary guitar belting out ‘With a Little help from My friend’. In the 80s metal rock warped our minds into bad fashion long hair and dancing with invisible guitars. Today; festivals, games and now even rehabilitation specialists have opened up to the idea of the ‘air guitar’.
Guitar hero is a popular music game, that lets the player use a guitar-shaped controller with various colored buttons to simulate the playing of rock music. The game continuously provides a visual stimuli (dots on the screen that have to be played), upon which the player responds to by pressing the buttons on the guitar controller. If the player presses the correct combination it will hear the correct guitar riff for that part of the song.
Rehabilitation specialists at Jonhs Hopkins University are using Nintendo’s Wii game console and ‘Guitar Hero’ as a way to help motivate patients during physical therapy and rehabilitation (http://spectrum.ieee.org/nov08/6994). With a few electrodes and some sophisticated programing, amputees can hit all the notes of a rock classic using electrical signals from their residual muscles.
The next step is to use it to train people who use less advanced commercially available artificial arms. Their goal is to create tools that will prime the pump of prosthetics innovation but “won’t consist of several thousand dollars of computing equipment.” In fact,they are in process of making the APL-created video-game interface software open source (free distribution).
A popular open source clone of Guitar Hero named ‘frets on fire’ has been developed to allow visually impaired people to play the game with a haptic glove (http://www.eelke.com/research.html?blindhero.html). Traditionally the game relies on people being able to see but the game has been developed to operate from physical feedback from a glove.