There’s lots of cool wearable technology out there, but these gloves that convert hand movements into music are my favorites (so far). I’m a big fan of electronica, and have dabbled a little bit with music-making programs such as Ableton, through which one can run all kinds of external noise machines, such as keyboards and synthesizers. But I’m the first to admit that, unless there’s some accompanying visual spectacle, such as Amon Tobin’s projection mapping, electronica shows can be pretty lackluster. It’s not always super interesting to watch an artist on a laptop, fiddling with controls that lack the sight-to-sound structure of, say, watching a guitarist pluck away at the strings. But these music-making gloves allow artists to link physical movement with sound in a way I’ve never seen before.
Imogen Heap, who records both under that name and with her band Frou Frou, has been wrestling with these live performance challenges for a while now, particularly when it comes to bringing in and trying to play in real time all the equipment she needs to layer the sounds on her albums. She wanted to find a way to express physically the rather robotic movements involved in making electronic music, so she’s been developing the Mi Mu Gloves for the past four years and has recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the project.
The gloves have sensors that measure the position, direction, and speed of the hand movements. The sensors can pick up sweeping gestures or tiny, flexing ones. These movements are mapped to software so the user can customize which sounds result from which movements. The gloves also will be able to connect to any music-making/manipulating software with MIDI capabilities. When Imogen Heap plays music with the gloves, she uses them to adjust volume, filter sounds, and record and loop voice samples. While it looks somewhat difficult, she says it feels “very instinctive.”
The Kickstarter is almost a third of the way to its $335,000 goal with 24 days to go. I’m hoping to see this project funded — the electronica shows in my future will be so much more interesting! The gloves retail for about $2,000 each, which may seem like a lot for gloves, but isn’t really all that much for musical equipment. And as Heap points out, “It might get to the point where we won’t even need gloves” — a mind-blowing thought for a musical future.