Wearable technology is becoming more of a reality in every industry, including music. For Grammy-winning artist Imogen Heap, the clock is ticking to see whether or not her musical gloves will become a reality for everyone.
The glove’s Kickstarter campaign has raised £67,717 ($93,422.35) and has only 12 days to meet it’s goal of £200,000 ($275,919.92). If the campaign meets its goal, those willing to pay the hefty fee of £1200 ($1,655.52) per glove will have access to an extremely fun and creative way to produce and interact with music.
The musical gloves called Mi.Mu Gloves were created by Imogen Heap and a team of engineers, designers, computer scientists and techies after Heap visited MIT’s Media Lab and saw a version of musical gloves being developed. She immediately loved the idea and formed a team to experiment and develop a similar wearable tech:
“The tech is all out there, which is exciting, the challenge more now is in the language and how to better articulate the hidden or techie side of stage performance, so it looks and feels natural to engage with.”
The Mi.Mu Gloves track hand gestures through sensing the orientation of your hand, the “flex” of your fingers, your current hand posture (fist, open hand, one finger point), the direction of you hand (up, down, left, right, forwards, backwards) and sharp movements such as drum hits. This enables musicians to produce music through simple motions, such as raising their arms instead of turning up a fader, or pointing to move a sound around the room. The information the gloves gather is transmitted wirelessly to a computer over WiFi via the x-OSC board on the wrist.
In addition to being technologically fascinating, Heap loves how the gloves allow her to produce music artistically, instead of feeling held back or uninspired by technology.
“I feel tethered to a keyboard or other control surface for computer duties and when you’re ‘stretching’ a sound or changing its pitch, a button, wheel or fader just never really cuts it. I always longed for more expressive control of the tech in studio and on stage, something I could wear and create sound fluidly with, more organically, humanly somehow.”
Not only are artists able to use the gloves to produce music in a whole new way, but the experience is enjoyable to watch, making it easier for the audience to connect with the performer. The goal is to not only break down the barriers between musicians and machines, but also between performers and audiences.
Like Heap wrote in Wired last year, wearable tech is the future. With Google Glass hitting the market (for a brief trail run) earlier this month, and active bracelets like Nike+ FuelBand and the Jawbone UP band becoming more and more popular, there is a race to see who can create the next big wearable technology.
For Mi.Mu Gloves, their biggest competitor in the music tech market is probably the Midi Controller Jacket by MACHINA Wearable Technology, whose Kickstarter project was fully funded in February. The jacket allows the user to control a MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface), allowing them to create music through motion and touch sensors by communicating with a mobile app.
Another similar music production gadget is Muse, a Mac desktop app that allows you to create and perform original music through hand gestures as you sit at your computer. Created by Leap Motion, the app works with the Leap Motion Controller, which is a USB device that reads the user’s hand gestures and interacts with the companion apps in the company’s Airpsace app store, according to The Next Web.
With these technologies popping up more frequently, I have no doubt we’ll be seeing more in the way of music production technologies, especially in wearable tech. As for Imogen Heap, the waiting game continues as her and her team hope to be fully funded and start producing Mi.Mu gloves for consumers:
“There is a long way to go to add to the dialogue; this is a lifelong project but already it’s greatly encouraging where we’ve come as a team. It feels like such a treat to make something physical as opposed to music.”