Washington, October 25 : Researchers at the Orthopedic Clinic of Heidelberg University Hospital have come up with a way with which paraplegic pianists, paralysed from the hips down, can play the pedalboard wirelessly.
Dr. Rudiger Rupp, who was honoured for this invention with 15,000 euros from the Innovation Award 2008 of the German Paraplegic Foundation (DSQ), said that his team had developed a bite splint with a pressure-sensitive sensor that a pianist can hold in his mouth to control the pedal according to the markings on the music.
The researcher said that the new approach could make it possible to hold a concert without any visible cables or devices, thus approaching normality.
"We assess the strength with which a paraplegic clenches his teeth. Depending on how strongly he does this, he can control the pedal position," he said.
He revealed that a highly sensitive strength or pressure sensor, embedded in the chewing surface of a bite splint that could be attached to the upper jaw, could serve that purpose.
"The disabled patient can thus control the entire range of pedal action - including intermediate positions and the speed with which the pedal is depressed," he said.
A wireless transmitter is installed to an electric motor attached to the pedals of the concert grand. A remote module, a kind of miniature transmitter with minimal power consumption placed in the right cheek, forwards the sensor signals to the electric motor, which then operates the pedal.
In his left cheek, the paraplegic pianist has a button cell that provides energy for twelve hours.
Rupp and his colleagues are presently working on the next step, aimed at the other two pedals of the grand piano and enhancing control.