Mobility Through Music - Virtual Music Instrument (VMI)

Recently I heard of new technology that gives people with disabilities the opportunity to learn to play an instrument.  Developed at the Bloorview Research Institute at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital in Toronto, the Virtual Music Instrument (VMI) has made what once seemed inconceivable now a reality.   

The Virtual Music Instrument made its debut when Eric Wan wowed the audience at Montreal's Place des Arts stage last November. Wan, who is paralyzed from the neck down, performed a 6 minute piece of Johann Pachellbel's Canon in D Major using this virtual hands-free violin (VMI) with the Montreal Chamber Orchestra.  Eric Wan trained as a violinist until he became a quadriplegic at the age of 18.  

As a graduate student in engineering at Bloorview Research Institute, Wan started working in Dr. Tom Chau's Bloorview laboratory where VMI was conceived. The laboratory focused on the technological innovations with practical implications for children with disabilities. Wan was a key player in developing the most recent version of the Virtual Music Instrument.  Using the VMI, Eric Wan can create and perform his music once again.


 Music therapy has been around for many years often with good results.  With recent technology, parents and therapists have turned to products like Nintendo, Xbox Kinect or Wii to increase mobility by motivating movement, play and cognitive function in children with disabilities.  Switch devices, toggles and other tools have been used.  It can be very frustrating when the product doesn't quite meet the unique needs of the child.  These products can also be very costly despite their limitations. 

 The Virtual Music Instrument doesn't rely on a child being able to manipulate an instrument.  A web cam is placed onto a television projecting the child's image back onto the screen.  Colourful dots surround the child's image representing a musical note.  When the child moves and passes through a virtual dot the musical note is played.  The computer software essentially translates movement into music.  The program is customizable right down to small movements like a finger. VMI takes music therapy to a whole new level. 

 The Virtual Music instrument was originally tested in rehabilitation centers.  It is now an affordable program that can be used in your own home.  VMI can be purchased through the following link, click here



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