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Kiwi student's robot bass guitar an online hit

Published: 4:49PM Friday November 30, 2012 Source: ONE News

An engineering student in Wellington has invented a robotic bass guitar which is becoming a YouTube sensation.

It might not be immediately obvious that the MechBass is a musical instrument, but once it starts playing its ability to mimic the sound of a live musician is uncanny.

Just like a real bass, the machine has four strings each with their own independent pitch adjuster which act like a player's fingers on a fretboard.

The strings are played by a series of rotating picks, and the device can apparently play at four times the speed of a human.

"It's got effectively four hands, so one hand per string so you can play note combinations that a human hand can't reach," inventor James McVay said.

"It can pick a total of 60 picks per second, for comparison the fastest human can do about 15, so four times the speed of a human."

Bass players from around the world are amazed at the sound and technology, with a video of MechBass playing Muse's 'Hysteria' attracting more than 400,000 hits this week alone. 

The popularity of McVay's invention comes as the Government announces a drive for more engineers, offering a thousand extra places at universities and polytechs next year.

Science and Innovation Minister, Steven Joyce,  says the move will help meet a workforce skills shortage.

"The Government subsidises different courses at different rates, and we've under subsidised engineering, to our cost, because we've had less engineers, so we're just redressing that balance a bit," he said.

The Government's switching $50 million worth of funding from other parts of the tertiary education budget to pay for another 500 engineering graduates a year

But the tertiary education union says that will come at the cost of jobs.

"We have a capped environment which means universities can only have so many students in any given year, that's not a bad thing to have, but if they have to have more engineering students, they're going to have less law students or less students in history," Sandra Grey from the union said.