These gloves will "change the way we make music," says Imogen Heap

Dezeen and MINI Frontiers: in this exclusive video interview, musician Imogen Heap demonstrates the electronic gloves that allow people to interact with their computer remotely via hand gestures.

Imogen Heap with two versions of her gestural gloves
Imogen Heap wearing the old and new versions of the Mi.Mu glove. Copyright: Dezeen

The interview was filmed at Heap's home studio outside London, shortly before she launched her Kickstarter campaign to produce a limited production run of the open-source Mi.Mu gloves.

"These beautiful gloves help me gesturally interact with my computer," says Heap, explaining how the wearable technology allows her to perform without having to interact with keyboards or control panels.

Pushing buttons and twiddling dials "is not very exciting for me or the audience," she says. "[Now] I can make music on the move, in the flow and more humanly, [and] more naturally engage with my computer software and technology."

Imogen Heap's Mi.Mu glove
Imogen Heap's electronic glove

Working with a team of developers and musicians, Heap has mapped movements made with the gloves to musical functions such as drum sounds or bass notes, changes of pitch, arpeggios and filters.

"What this glove enables me to do is access mappings inside my computer so that I don’t have to go to a keyboard or a fader or a button," she says.

For example, instead of using a finger to push a fader on a mixing desk, Heap can raise her arm to achieve the same affect. By raising her hand, she can move through a scale of notes, or through pinching together her thumb, middle and forefinger and rotating it, she can apply filters to the sound.

Imogen Heap demonstrating Mi.Mu glove
Imogen Heap demonstrating the Mi.Mu glove

Each gesture-control glove contains a wifi-enabled x-IMU board developed by x-IO Technologies containing an accelerometer, a magnetometer and a gyroscope.

These work together with a series of motion sensors incorporated into the fingers of each glove that track the degree of bend and the spread of the fingers. The gloves can also understand postures such as an open palm, a finger-point or a closed fist.

Imogen Heap demonstrating Mi.Mu glove
The gloves can be programmed to understand "postures" such as an open palm or a pointed finger

The latest version of the gloves feature e-textile technology, where sensors and wiring are integrated into fabric. Heap is now exploring how to make further use of electronically conducting textiles, to reduce the number of hard components in the gloves.

Mi.Mu glove by Imogen Heap
The latest version of the Mi.Mu has sensors, wifi and battery integrated into the glove

Heap says they will not just change performance, but the production of music too: "We really feel that they are going to change the way we make music."

The development of the Mi.Mu glove, with the earliest prototypes on the far left

Heap’s Kickstarter campaign aims to raise £200,000 to develop and produce a limited production run of Mi.Mu gloves. If successful, she will make both the hardware and software open source, allowing people to develop their own uses for the technology. "It’s really exciting to see what people might do by hacking them," said Heap. The Kickstarter campaign closes on 3 May 2014.

The music featured in this movie is Me, the Machine, a track that Heap wrote specifically to be performed using the gloves.

For more information about the technology in the gloves, read the edited transcript of our interview with Heap.

Dezeen and MINI Frontiers is a year-long collaboration with MINI exploring how design and technology are coming together to shape the future.

Dezeen and MINI Frontiers