A program developed at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) allows students with severe physical disabilities to create music just by moving their heads. A digital video camera tracks the students’ movements on a computer screen and translates them into piano scales or drum beats. The program’s developers hope it will open a whole new world of creativity for physically challenged individuals.

Using subtle motions of her head and this newly developed computer program, 16-year-old Annemarie grinned with the realization that she was making music. The teenager, a student at the Rehab School in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.,...

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