Device allows paraplegic pianists to play

Oct. 27, 2008 at 12:04 PM

HEIDELBERG, Germany, Oct. 27 (UPI) -- German scientists say they've developed technology that allows paraplegics paralyzed from the hips down to wirelessly operate the right pedal of a piano.

Researchers at the Orthopedic Clinic of Heidelberg University Hospital led by Rudiger Rupp said their technology overcomes disadvantages of other methods that do not allow half pedal or flutter.

Rupp and his team developed a bite splint with a pressure-sensitive sensor a pianist can hold in his or her mouth to control the pedal according to the markings on the music.

A wireless transmitter is connected to an electric motor attached to the pedals of the concert grand. A remote module -- a kind of miniature transmitter -- is placed in the pianist's right cheek. In the left cheek, the paraplegic pianist has a button cell that provides energy for 12 hours.

When pedal markings appear in the notes, the paraplegic pianist literally grits his teeth, to a greater or lesser extent, to achieve the same differentiated sounds as a non-disabled pianist.

Rupp, director of the research department at the hospital's spinal cord injury unit was honored for the invention with the award of 15,000 Euros by the German Paraplegic Foundation.

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