The pianist, who lost the ability to play due to health complications, plays piano again.(REUTERS)
The pianist, who lost the ability to play due to health complications, plays piano again.(REUTERS)

Bionic gloves help Brazilian pianist play music using all his fingers again

“When he showed me the gloves, I joked that they were for boxing, not to play the piano,” João Carlos Martins , 80, said of the black neoprene gloves made by 3D printer.
Sao Paulo | By Reuters | Posted By: Trisha Sengupta
PUBLISHED ON NOV 07, 2020 02:24 AM IST

Acclaimed Brazilian pianist João Carlos Martins had not played with 10 fingers since he lost the use of his right hand in a 1995 mugging in Bulgaria.

But today he has returned to play his favorite Bach sonatas thanks to “bionic gloves” invented by industrial designer Ubiratan Bizarro.

“When he showed me the gloves, I joked that they were for boxing, not to play the piano,” Martins, 80, said of the black neoprene gloves made by 3D printer.

Brazilian conductor and pianist Joao Carlos Martins, 80. (REUTERS)
Brazilian conductor and pianist Joao Carlos Martins, 80. (REUTERS)

The gloves have rods that make the fingers spring back up after they depress the keys and allow the pianist to continue playing.

Martins performed with leading orchestras in the United States and Europe and recorded Bach’s complete keyboard works, but the injuries ended his career. For many years he played with one hand and a thumb, but lost the use of the left hand due to focal dystonia, a neurological condition affecting the muscles.

Brazilian conductor and pianist Joao Carlos Martins plays the piano with bionic gloves. (REUTERS)
Brazilian conductor and pianist Joao Carlos Martins plays the piano with bionic gloves. (REUTERS)

“To be able to use all ten fingers again more than 20 years later is a miracle for me at the age of 80,” he said.

Bizarro says he got the idea from Formula 1 motor racing technology. He spent less than $100 to make the first pair for Martins and now exports them to Europe under the brand name Bionic Extender Gloves.

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