Virtual Violin Allows Quadriplegic Musician to Live His Dream
Jan 10, 2012
Eric Wan was just eighteen years of age when a routine measles vaccine left him paralyzed from the neck down. One might assume that such a drastic change in mobility would keep Eric from continuing his musical career as a violinist, but thanks to new technology, Wan has been able to play a virtual violin in a performance at Montreal’s Place des Arts.
Wan helped create the Virtual Music Instrument (VMI) as an engineering graduate student at the Bloorview Research Institute at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital in Toronto, Canada. Although it was originally developed as an interactive children’s toy, the VMI will give musicians like Wan a chance to realize dreams of performing music that would otherwise be an impossibility.
The VMI uses advanced software technologies to translate Wan’s subtle head movements into music via a webcam. His movements trigger pre-recorded sounds and notes, allowing Wan to play various scores, including Johann Pachelbel’s Canon in D Major that he will showcase at the symphony in Montreal.
The performance also features other artists with handicaps who perform professionally, including violinist Adrian Anantawan, who was born without a right hand, and France Geoffroy, a quadriplegic dancer.
Eric Wan has won numerous awards for his work on the Virtual Music Instrument, including the international da Vinci Award and awards from the Toronto Rehab Research Day.