English musician Imogen Heap holds a Grammy for Best Engineered Album, Non Classical from 2010 and now she’s ready to put the gloves on; the magical, musical gloves. Heap has joined forces with what she calls “the nerd underworld,” a team of scientists, engineers, and artists to create Mi.Mu. The set of high-tech gloves allows the wearer for create music through hand gestures, not unlike the Theremin, which is played by users gliding their hands through an electromagnetic field in various patterns. Motion capture technology has been utilized in film making and video games for well over a decade, but it’s addition to music is sure to satisfy the inner child of everyone who once waved their hands in emulation of an orchestral conductor.
Mi.Mu gloves are fingerless to allow the wearer to play physical instruments if desired and they have bare palms so that the wearer is not restricted from clapping. The gloves are fitted with sensors; they work by tracking the movements of the wearer and sending signals to the software which track the movements in real-time. The gloves can communicate with multiple Wi-Fi enabled devices at a time, giving the user a plethora of options during the creative and performance processes.
Heap’s performances famously take place on a stage crowded with instruments, which she flits between like a busy worker bee. Now, strapped up with wires, her performances seem surprisingly less encumbered. The wires run from Imogen Heap’s back, down her arms to her hands, where two blinking LED lights are situated on the backs of her palms. Gesticulations of her arms and hands control the electronic instruments that she has set to each glove. The futuristic wearable technology allows her to add reverberation to her voice, or play the drums just by moving her body. Heap is clearly excited about the technology, calling them her “magical musical gloves” and beaming through her performance demonstration for Wired UK in 2012.
The magical, musical Mi.Mu gloves are still currently being featured on the crowd-funding website, Kickstarter. Donations of £5 (about $8 US) or more will get backers gifts of gratitude like a download of the first song ever composed using the Mi.Mu gloves, a signed copy of Imogen Heap’s first glove single, Me The Machine. Beginning at £750 (about $1,260 US) contributors will receive a Glove Maker Kit from the folks at The Gloves Project, whereas £1,200 (about $2,000 US) will get a single Mi.Mu glove and contributors of a hefty £2,400 or more will receive a pair of gloves. A final, whopping donation of £4,950 will receive a pair of evolving gloves. Meaning the lucky backer gets to play a part in the development of Mi.Mu, contributing their feedback into the overall outcome of how the hardware/software and aesthetic evolves through the final stages of the development process. The idea of becoming a part of the evolution of music composition as we know it is an exciting prospect that has already filled 6 of its 10 limited spaces. Mi.Mu gloves are expected to be available to the public in 2015, so the rest of the technologically adventurous musicians can join Imogen Heap in putting the gloves on.
By Faye Barton