Dezeen and MINI Frontiers: the Mi.Mu gesture-control gloves developed by musician Imogen Heap could lead to more accessible ways of making music, say early adopters of the wearable technology (+ movie).
Mi.Mu gloves, which are being developed by a team led by Heap, enable musicians to compose and perform music by making gestures with their hands, rather than plucking a string or pressing a key on a traditional instrument or MIDI controller.
Heap invited Dezeen to a workshop where she and her team worked with a group of musicians and engineers to explore how they could use the gloves in their own work.
"For the first time I get to see how somebody else uses the gloves," Heap told us. "The minute somebody puts their hands in them, they're starting to think creatively about them. I'm really happy that you're going to see what they're up to."
The gloves, which use a variety of different sensors to track the position, direction, velocity and posture of the wearer's hand, can be programmed to perform different musical functions.
You can watch Heap demonstrate the gloves in the movie above, which we published last year.
One of the collaborators, Gawain Hewitt, believes the technology could help remove barriers to music-making for people with a disability that impairs them from using a traditional instrument.
"I'm hoping the gloves will allow better expressive music-making for people that are not currently able to fulfil what's in their head," he said.
At the workshop Hewitt had programmed the gloves so that a few simple movements triggered a particular set of chords.
"We're really interested in the glove because it's such an advanced way of using gesture and it's extremely flexible," explained Hewitt, who works for the charity Drake Music. "I think everyone has the right to make music."
Other collaborators explored how the gloves could enhance the capabilities of traditional instruments.
"Having the ability to morph [sound] in a gestural way, almost makes it like a dance," said musician Tom Shani, who was using the gloves to manipulate notes played on his bass guitar in real time.
"I like to do a lot of solo compositions," he explained. "There is so much room for expressive noise and expressive melody, which you couldn't do on just a bass."
Sound engineer Warren Brown hopes to be able to use the gloves to move sound around a physical space to create more engaging live performances.
"It would be great to be able to give an artist or engineer the ability to take a sound and send it to the back of the room and just envelope the audience more," he said. "A lot of what I do is about designing sound and space. This is just a more natural way of making it happen."
Heap and her team are still improving the hardware and software for the gloves. She hopes that making the project open-source will speed up the development process so that the gloves will eventually be ready for manufacture.
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"We hope to have a really strong, solid piece of hardware and software," she explained. "Then us lot can hand [the manufacturing process] over to somebody else, so we can still be creative and work with artists to meet their demands for how they might want to use the gloves. That's the future."
For more information about the technology in the gloves, read the edited transcript of our interview with Heap from last year.
Dezeen and MINI Frontiers is a year-long collaboration with MINI exploring how design and technology are coming together to shape the future.