Does the future of music lie in wearables?

By September 08, 2015
wearable & music

The new information and communication technologies are getting in tune with the world of music via a range of newly-invented wearable electronic devices. These wearable device initiatives look set to shake up not only the way we listen to music but also the actual process of making music.

It is no secret that the fashion world has been rather hesitant about getting involved with wearable devices. However, this doesn’t seem to be the case when it comes to music. The music world has recently seen a number of connected wearables projects, the latest being connected headsets designed to revolutionise the way we listen to sound. A Lithuanian designer, Aiste Noreikaite, unveiled her Experience Helmet some time ago in London. The helmet is embedded with sensors that track brain activity, and the integrated earphones then play back a synthesized soundtrack based on your own brainwaves. Noreikaite’s stated aim is to allow wearers to hear how their own brains work and so encourage them to meditate.

From listening to sounds to music creation

Aiste Noreikaite is however not the only inventor who has designed a wearable device to change the way we listen to music. The Mico headset created by Japanese gadget specialist Neurowear provides a similar sort of service, though meditation is not the goal of the experience. While the Mico headset also records brain activity, the aim is to be able to come up with music tracks to suit the wearer’s current mood – a sort of automatically concocted playlist. The headset ‟frees the user from having to select songs and artists”,  claims the website.

   The Mico headset detects the wearer’s mood and automatically chooses appropriate songs and artists to play

While these two wearable devices set out to change the way people listen to sounds or music, others – such as Soundbrenner’s Pulse wearable metronome – focus on the process of actually creating music. The Berlin-based startup has developed a connected arm/legband which enables a musician to feel the beat as vibrations and/or see it in the form of a flashing LED and so immerse him/herself more fully in the creative process.

Wearables that turn the body into an instrument

While the Pulse metronome allows musicians to internalise the beat, other wearables go even further in the process of creating music. L’Atelier reported some time ago on instruments that are an extension of the musician’s body (in French) but other, less intrusive, inventions have appeared recently. DrumPants, from the San Francisco-based start-up of the same name, looks like a pair of straps which a musician slips under his/her trousers, under a slipper, or up a sleeve. S/he can then for example set up and record a beat by simply tapping his/her foot.

                                      DrumPants’ connected straps take body-music interaction a step further


The idea behind DrumPants is to incorporate new technology into an existing process. The Mi.Mu Gloves initiative takes a completely different approach. The aim of the connected glove is to enable a performer to use a range of body movements to steer and adjust the music s/he’s producing, which can basically be seen as whole new way of making music.  Once their gloves have been calibrated with the music software, musicians can for example raise or lower sound levels just by moving their arms rather than pushing buttons or sliding faders on the console. ‟Our aim is to break down the barriers between musicians and machines, and between performers and audiences,” explained the Mi.Mu team on their Kickstarter campaign page. Meanwhile the Sound on Intuition project run by Belgian artist Pieter-Jan Pieters is more or less based on the same principle, with five devices translating hand movements, handwriting gestures, finger- or foot-tapping and heartbeats into sound. All in all it looks as though wearables might well be playing a major role in music in the future by associating the human body closely with melody and rhythm.


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