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.

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  • Tani

    AMAZING! Imogen is truly a wonderful artist!

  • Mary Schiller

    Wow, is all I can say. As someone who has been wanting to begin composing using my computer, this is really inspiring to me.

  • Anne Noise

    I can’t wait for Sparks!

  • Nitronous

    Shut up and take my money. NOW!

  • Yooooooo

    Put that software on Github and lets goooooooooooooooo

  • ericsinger

    Great work, and I mean that sincerely. Let’s be slightly more humble though before saying we’re now going to “change the way we make music” and acknowledge that scores of others over the last 30-40 years have created musical gloves with this same goal in mind, a few examples being:

    • Eileen Kaur Alden

      Thank you for mentioning Onyx. I exploded over this exact same topic before I saw this post.

  • MIDee

    Nonsense; people have been doing this since the mid 1980’s on MIDI spec. 1.
    Has she never head of Laurie Anderson?

  • Hugo Ramírez


  • Gus

    I saw her in 2011 in Paris, it was not only a gig but a work station where sounds become songs

  • krychaj

    Our project seems more sophisticated…maybe someday we’ll also become known ;-)

  • Keyboard Guy

    I like her music. These gloves will be probably be a novelty at best in the music community. You still have to program the software and everything the gloves will control. It’s easier to perform it with a keyboard and edit the midi data later if you need to tweak it. People will not be putting down their keyboards and music production software anytime soon for these gloves. However, I applaud her innovation. I think she will probably refine it and make a solid contribution to the music community, just not change it all together. Best of luck Imogen!

  • gmail

    Laetitia Sonami invented this in 1991.

  • Taylor

    Too bad Laetitia Sonami already invented this in 1991.

  • Anna

    Could you make the gloves interpret sign language? And so giving a voice to those who need it?

  • I’d love to see Imogen at least give a nod to Laetitia Sonami, who I believe early commenters have also mentioned. Laetitia’s work with “The Lady’s Glove”, represents a lot of what Ms. Heap is building on here. Incidentally, Laetitia also developed her work at STEIM, but she began the work in 1991. Her glove developed into a beautiful instrument that included much of the same technology being used here – embedded in an elegant mesh opera glove, but her music is much more avant grade than IH’s so she’s more known in fine art, experimental music, and sound art circles. If anyone cares to look into her, here’s the page on her site that recounts the history of The Lady’s Glove:

    And there’s also a documentary recently released about her called ‘‘The Ear Goes to the Sound: The Work of Laetitia Sonami’’, by filmmaker Renetta Sitoy, and her wiki page is here:

    • Michel Waisvisz developed ‘The Hands’ in the early 80s which were a precursor to all of this. Imogen Heap has taken it into the more popular music world. It is disappointing but not surprising that no acknowledgement is made to the miriad of people who have been behind the scenes developing this sort of technology. Goes to show it’s all about branding!

  • Paul Burns

    MIDI Gloves and apparel have been around for a very long time. This was Yamaha’s toy in 1990.

  • Randall Burns

    These gloves have potential for applications beyond music.There are a lot of hand oriented applications that these can be used for or modified to handle. I really like that these are open source and have seen similar products that were just plain too expensive to be interesting.

  • GutteG

    This guy has a homemade glove too.

  • debruehe

    Leap Motion does the exact same thing without any gloves!

  • Abi_Stevens

    This technology could have some amazing applications elsewhere too. Could they be adapted to allow mostly-paralysed people to manoeuvre a wheelchair with only minimal hand movement for example?

  • Njous

    Why are we not funding this?

  • Jess Hanes

    This article made me extremely excited for her new album out next week that I just impulse pre-ordered it on iTunes… WHATEVER, SO EXCITED.

  • Nick

    Hi. Laetitia Sonami anyone?

  • Riviera

    This really shouldn’t have failed. This is real ingenuity and forward thinking. I think the only thing missing is a tidy, sleek looking consumer prototype. Brilliant though!

  • There’s a place for it, although it’s not new. Still just toys.

  • Eileen Kaur Alden

    I have always loved Imogen Heap, but I’m sorry this movement was started by Onyx Ashanti. Here he is performing at a TED talk five years ago where his technology already surpassed this level:

    Onyx started with innovation and a hot-glue gun, stuff from home depot and open source everything. I’ve seen him power his gear with a bicycle… I can’t even tell you how innovative this guy is, and he’s been working on it steadily ever since. But now a celebrity steps in with a $200K Kickstarter and claims space as the innovator? Oh hell no. The real originators need to get credit, especially the artists of colour.

    Imogen, you need to go talk to Onyx, acknowledge and respect all the people who paved the way for you and then come correctly in this space.

  • Ultroman

    Yes yes, people, gloves like this have been around for years. Just like books have been around for years, and wouldn’t you know, they’re still used to write things in!

    The old gloves suck. This looks interesting and new. With open-source software, and drivers that may work on Windows 10, which none of the older gloves can boast about.

    Shut up, and enjoy progress you didn’t have to work for.

  • Miglet32

    Basically the NES Power Glove of the DAW world: “Make music in the flow, more humanly, more naturally.”

    There’s nothing natural about relative hand-gesture commands that are neither accurate nor specific to the tasks at hand. This adds an unnecessary degree of difficulty that is already easily overcome by even the most basic MIDI keyboard.

  • Jano Bano

    Rafael Toral did this YEARS ago.

  • Clay Chaplin

    There is such a long history of glove instruments… STEIM, Michel Waisvisz, Mark Trayle, Laetitia Sonami. The revolution already happened! :>)

Posted on Monday, March 31st, 2014 at 12:23 pm by James Pallister. See our copyright policy.

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