Imogen Heap – The Gloves

Imogen Heap’s musical gloves have been specifically designed for her.They allow wearer to manipulate music using just hand gestures. As the site has alot of text and information Iv pasted the informative and interesting bits from several articles concerning the gloves found on For a more thorough reading just follow the link.

Using a unique gestural vocabulary, motion data-capture systems, and user interfaces to parameter functions developed by Imogen Heap and her team, artists and other users will be able to use their motion to guide computer-based digital creations. The Musical Gloves are both an instrument and a controller in effect, designed to connect the user fluidly with gear performers usually use, such as Ableton – think minority report for musicians brought to you by the DIY/maker revolution.

 ‘The gloves were created by a team at the University of West England, led by Professor Tom Mitchell, a music technology specialist. He used fibre-optic gloves developed for gaming and added chip boards. The gloves were programmed based on Ms Heap’s movements, so for instance to make a sound louder she opened her arms wide and to quieten it, she closed them. The gloves were developed by Tom Mitchell, a lecturer in music systems at the University of the West of England, Bristol and allow Heap to mix her music live on stage.’

‘ “The gestures lend themselves to the processes that they control,” explains Mitchell. “For example, a grasping gesture is used to sample voice and instruments, panning is achieved by pointing in the direction that the sound should be positioned, and filtering is achieved by closing the hands as if you are smothering the sound.” ‘

‘The gloves contain sensors that monitor the motion of the wearer’s finger joints, along with a gyroscope and accelerator to track the orientation of the wearer’s hands in space and microphones attached to the wrist for sound capture. All the data is then streamed to a laptop for analysis and audio processing.’ 

Heap created her gloves with Tom Mitchell, a senior lecturer in music systems at the University of West England. They began with off-the- shelf fibre-optic data gloves made by South African company 5DT. The gloves can sense the position of Heap’s fingers. Mitchell combined them with two X-IMU boxes, each containing a gyroscrope, accelerometer and magnetometer. “This was to add on extra layers,” says Heap. Mitchell took all the outputs and created a program in C++ to integrate the data.

Heap’s gloves use four basic movements: fist, open hand, pointing and the “rock” sign (fingers in horns). The gloves operate in six modes: voice record, multi-effects, wrist record, drums, synths and rock mode. Heap switches between them with a gesture on one hand to indicate the start of a mode switch, then a second gesture with her other hand to select a particular mode. LED lights on each wrist tell her which mode she’s in — “otherwise it would be like flying blind,” says Mitchell.

Heap has Shure lapel-mics attached to each glove. By flicking her wrist, these start recording whatever they’re near. Opening her hand starts a recording loop, and clenching it into a fist closes it. Heap uses different hands for different loops — “like catching the sound”. By switching to synth mode, Heap plays notes based upon the position of her hand in the air. In drum mode, for example, a karate-chop right sounds the kick drum, and left hits the snare.

“If your arms are open, the sound should be louder,” says Heap. “If your arms are cradling something, it would sound small.” By pointing, she can “pan” the sound; raising one hand increases reverb, the other volume. Throwing horns enables rock mode, and distortion is controlled with her two middle fingers.

The gloves contain 14 fibre-optic elements. An analogue sensor picks up the light, then converts it to a digital signal.

The X-IMU box contains the accelerometer, magnetometer and gyroscope, determining the pitch, roll and yaw of Heap’s hands. The LED light display helps Heap track which mode she’s in – flashing white is neutral, green is ready to record, red is on-air. On her back, Heap has three wireless mics, a wireless return for monitoring and the hub where all sensors are connected by USB. An earpiece supplies Heap with a clicktrack of 140 beats per minute, in a key of C sharp. ‘ – Wired 


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