Home guitar Innovative System Developed by Japanese Professor Enables One-Handed and Foot Guitar Playing for Individuals with Disabilities

Innovative System Developed by Japanese Professor Enables One-Handed and Foot Guitar Playing for Individuals with Disabilities

by Madonna

KUMAMOTO — Dr. Go Koutaki, a 43-year-old professor of information engineering at Kumamoto University’s Faculty of Engineering, has pioneered a groundbreaking system designed to empower individuals with physical disabilities, enabling them to play the guitar with one arm and a foot.

Dr. Koutaki’s focus lies in creating assistive technologies for individuals facing physical challenges such as partial paralysis or impairment of one arm, allowing them to engage in musical expression. The “semi-automatic guitar performance support device” stands out as a remarkable innovation, substituting the conventional act of fretting chords with fingers by utilizing a foot to activate pedals connected through radio waves. With just a foot and a hand in play, the guitar produces the envisioned musical notes.

In a recent event held in mid-October in Tokyo, Dr. Koutaki showcased his invention among other developers, each presenting the outcomes of their distinctive ideas. A gentleman, having lost his left arm in an accident, approached Koutaki’s booth and experienced playing the guitar using the device. Formerly an avid guitar enthusiast, the man shared his elation, expressing that he had attempted to devise a mechanism enabling one-armed guitar playing but had abandoned the endeavor. He was visibly moved by Koutaki’s creation, stating, “I’m able to play for the first time in a year.” Subsequently, he returned to the booth numerous times with friends.

Dr. Koutaki adheres to the philosophy of allowing individuals to derive pleasure from playing rather than creating a fully automated system, ensuring that listeners can experience the authentic live sound. His innovative work extends beyond guitars, with ongoing projects aimed at aiding musicians in holding saxophone keys and facilitating flute playing.

Originally specializing in image processing within the information engineering field, Dr. Koutaki redirected his focus towards “human-computer interaction,” a domain utilizing technology to enhance people’s lives. Approximately three years ago, he initiated collaborative efforts with students in his laboratory to develop robots. Driven by a desire to make his research directly beneficial to individuals, he integrated technology into the realm of music, a personal passion, to transcend language and age barriers. After a year and a half of dedicated research, the current assistive system was born.

Dr. Koutaki aspires to contribute to enriching lives through his research, envisioning a society where individuals find joy in accomplishing tasks previously deemed impossible. He stated, “I hope to realize a society where people’s lives are enriched through the development of robots.”

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