Sensory conditioned unconscious learning to play a piano

Champion Name

Ephrem Zewdie

University of Calgary
Challenge ID


Project Track


Challenge Description

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Learning processes and outcomes can be conscious and unconscious. The unconscious processes range from registering information in the sensory memory to mentally forming associations within or between information patterns and activating associative memory networks. Sensory conditioning (for example, using electrical or mechanical activation) has been the basis for motor recovery following rehabilitation after injury. Tactile stimulation combined with visual or auditory sensory simulation can enhance learning.

Some children with learning disability experience motor skill disorder or developmental coordination disorder reflected as hand-eye coordination problem. The challenge presented here is to design a simple device that learns to provide electrical or vibrational cue to the finger of the piano player to enhance unconscious learning of playing a piano. Using this device, people with typical learning ability should significantly decrease the time it takes them to learn to play a simple song on the piano. More importantly, the device can help children with learning disability to learn to play a piano.

One solution can be special glove that can wirelessly communicate with a phone app. The glove will have contact points with each finger to provide very small electrical sensory stimulation few milliseconds before when the specific music note needs to be played. Based on the player’s reaction time, the timing can be decreased. When the timing is close to zero, the simulation can be removed and the person should be able to play the music notes (the song) without a prior conditioning stimulation. A prototype of the device can easily be constructed using Ardunio kits and 3D printing parts.

The app will convert a simple song into the piano notes and transmit the notes via Bluetooth to the glove. The app should also able be able to change the timing of the sensory stimulation progressively.