Neurosurgeon dissects wife’s brain

A book where a neurosurgeon husband dissects his piano-playing wife’s brain to try and capture the essence of her creativity is the inspiration behind an exhibit at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) List Visual Arts Center.

The exhibit (called Recital), features a self-playing piano with a mechanical arm which automatically turns the pages of the music manuscript.

After purchasing an expensive page-turner which did not work, the gallery turned to IT, and Ernesto Blanco, professor of mechanical engineering, designed one which not only works, but also costs just $150.

The device, which utilises a mechanical arm with a spool of sticky tape that lifts and turns each page, can be operated with either a push button or a timer, making it a useful tool for both musicians and disabled people.

Although the use of sticky tape was a turning point in the design – enabling the device to pick up any size or weight of paper – separating the paper from the tape was now a problem. Then Blanco hit on the idea of using a spool which causes the paper to fall off when the tape is rolled.

This simple yet innovative design has proved so problematic and ultimately satisfying that Professor Blanco now uses the page-turner as a case study for the design process.