Super-human training

Original author: Ariel Bleicher
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Want to learn how to play a musical instrument? Or can dance? Easy! Wearable computers can help you with this by working directly on muscle memory.

Look at this glove. Let her apparent simplicity not deceive you. This, at first glance, a boring black leather glove without fingers, which looks like any other from a sports store, with the help of micro-vibrations can speed up the process of learning, for example, piano tunes!

“I have a glove that can teach you how to play the piano,” Chad Starner tells me .when I called him to talk about the future of wearable computing devices. At the moment, he is a professor at the Georgia Technical Institute and the technical director of Google Glass. His acquaintance with the field of wearable gadgets began back in his student days at MIT in the nineties.
“While you and I were talking, you could already learn“ Oh, Grace ”(Amazing Grace),” he adds at the end of our conversation.
"True? “I do not believe him, - while we speak?”
“Of course,” he says and invites me to Atlanta so I can see for myself.

And now Caitlin Diet, graduate student, puts a miracle glove on my hand. In each of the five holes for the fingers is a flat vibro motor. All five lie on the phalanges of my fingers and are connected to the micro-controller on the back of my hand. The diet has programmed it so that it starts the motors on my fingers in a sequence that repeats the one with which my fingers should hit the piano keys.

But she still doesn’t tell me which particular melody I will study. “You just feel a little vibration,” she says, including the electronics. Right after that, Starner leads me to look around in his laboratory. He is involved in a myriad of different projects: a translator program for Google Glass, a magnetic implant for the tongue to give silent commands to the computer, a smart vest that will help divers to “communicate” with dolphins, “smart” toys for police dogs so that trainers can better understand that that they are trying to show them and many more other amazing gadgets.

Once a minute, for the next two hours, the motors in my glove come to life and I try to make out the sequence: wljj ... middle finger ... wljj ... nameless ... vzhzhzh ... vzhzhzh ... oh ... vzhzhzh ... uh ... vzhzhzh ... vzhzhzh ... damn it!“Impossible,” I write in my notebook.

Finally, Starner brings me to the piano. He plays the first part of the melody - 15 notes that the glove should have taught me. I recognize the melody - this is “Ode to Joy,” Beethoven. I take off my glove.

“Get started from here,” says Starner, hitting the first key with his finger. I put my fingers on the keys ... Middle finger ... middle ... nameless ... "I don’t know," I say embarrassed.

“Don’t think about it,” says Starner.

And I start again: Middle ... middle ... nameless ... little finger ... little finger ... nameless ... middle ... index ... "Go crazy!" I say, continuing to play nonetheless. I finish the first part, the second and start playing the third.

“Wait a minute! - interrupts me Starner, - have you ever played this tune?

“Never,” I answer him. And it's true, I never took piano lessons. He confusedly examines the glove and discovers that it has been programmed to “vibrate” all four parts - 61 notes, instead of 15, as he thought. He explains that usually students teach one piece at a time.

I go back to the piano. The first few attempts are still difficult. I have to learn the melody, no matter what, but after a few minutes I can play the melody perfectly. I have a feeling that I came across one of my undisclosed talents and that makes me feel excited.

“You just know what you have to do, don't you?” - the Diet notes. She recently learned to play The Ode of Joy while wearing a glove while preparing an application for a new research grant. “As if you were looking at someone else's hand,” she jokes at me.

Starner and his colleagues believe that the multiple vibrations created by the glove stimulate muscle memory, which in turn reduces the time it takes to rehearse. They also studied the effect of the glove on people with spinal injuries and found that it could help them partially regain the sensitivity of the hands. Now Starner’s laboratory is trying to find the use of gloves also in teaching the alphabet of the blind - this would show that this technology can help to learn not just sequences, but also language.

“We ourselves do not know the boundaries of this technology,” says Starner. “Can we use these vibrations to teach people to dance? Or, for example, to teach baseball players better to throw the ball? ”

He also recalls the scene from the Matrix, where Neo and Trinity board a helicopter and when Neo asks if Trinity can fly it, she replies: “Not yet ...” And after a second, her eyelids tremble while knowledge is “pumping” into her head .

“Well, you can't do that,” I say.

Starner answers me with a smirk: “Not yet ....”

PS. Hi Habr! This is my first translation. The article just seemed very interesting and it was thought that maybe someone else would consider it as such. I will be glad to constructive criticism in the posts or in the comments. Everyone is happy to spend the rest of Friday.

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