Mi.Mu Glove for Music

Mi.Mu Glove for Music

Posted On: April 11, 2014
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Imogen Heap’s state-of-the-art wearable tech lets you control sounds with your hands.

A Kickstarter campaign has been launched to make the first Mi.Mu gloves available to the public—Mi.Mu gloves are a gestural music system which is open-source, allowing everyone access to the power of glove.

Why Gloves for Music?

Most of us on our small team are musicians who are tired of being stuckbehind computer screens, keyboards, faders, knobs, and buttons to make our music. We feel there could be a better way that is more like the experiences we have with traditional instruments: using the dexterity and mobility of the human body.

Imagine, for example, that instead of turning up a fader in order to bring in a sound or add reverb, you could be raising your arms to achieve the same effect. Or to move a sound around the room, you could simply point where you want it to be. Not only is this much more intuitive, it is also more enjoyable to watch, making it easier for your audience to connect with what you’re doing.

Our aim is to break down the barriers between musicians and machines, and between performers and audiences. Every musician and/or performer will know the bane of their existence is to have to carry, or worse, ship vast amounts of technological equipment to whatever destination they are playing. The gloves are a compact, lightweight and self-contained system requiring little more than a laptop to function fully.

What Exactly Can the Gloves Do?

The gloves capture the movements and postures of your hands. Our software allows this information to be mapped to musical control messages which can then be easily routed to your favourite music software.

Specifically, the gloves track the following:

The orientation of your hand
The “flex” of your fingers
Your current hand posture (e.g. fist, open hand, one finger point)
The direction (up, down, left, right, forwards, backwards) of your hand
Sharp movements such as drum hits
This information is transmitted wirelessly to your computer, over WiFi (via the x-OSC board on the wrist).

This information is transmitted wirelessly to your computer, over WiFi (via the x-OSC board on the wrist).

In order to turn this information into music, we have developed software allowing you to “map” glove data to musical control signals (e.g. MIDI and OSC). The software also allows you to combine glove inputs to make complex controls. For example, the software would allow you to program the following:

“If I am making a fist with my right hand, and pointing downwards with my left hand, map the ‘roll’ of my right wrist to MIDI control change message 60 on channel 2”.

These mappings can then be used to control third party software such as Ableton Live, Pro Tools, Logic Pro or Max/MSP or plugins such as Kontakt and Omnisphere.

This ability of the software to combine postures and gestures for mapping, combined with other innovative technological advances, means there are literally thousands of independently mappable controls with one pair of gloves (!) – more than most MIDI controllers on the market – all without having to even look at a screen during performance. You can create multiple parallel mappings, switch between sets of mappings, and load and save your projects to share or develop them over time. Finally, you can use the software to listen out for other inputs, as well, further increasing the richness of control and expressive mappability with your favourite music software.

The Gloves – A Very Short History

The gloves are the product of years of research and development, building upon original research at University of the West of England. The project was initiated and continues to be driven by musician Imogen Heap along with a team of engineers, scientists, artists and musicians.

A number of iterations of the gloves have been designed, aimed predominantly at producing a gestural performance system for Heap. Some details about the evolution of the project over the last few years can be seen on our Glove Project Blog. This culminated in a performance system which can be seen in footage from some of Imogen’s demos and performances.

While the system was incredibly powerful and expressive, it was also incredibly complex to set up. It required the attention of a team of people, not to mention the days of intense advanced MIDI routing and Ableton Live programming to create the mappings and session used in Imogen’s first glove song, Me The Machine, which is included with many of our Kickstarter pledges.

We wanted everyone to have the experience of being inside these gloves without as much of the complexity in Imogen’s original system. We wanted to make a wireless glove that almost any musician could adapt to their way of making music. The last 18 months have seen re-design after re-design of the glove textiles, hardware and software and we have finally arrived at a point where we can make them available to others through this Kickstarter.