[Updated] No, not t-shirts with band names on it. I’m talking about wearable, interactive clothing with integrated electronics that respond to or generate sound. Inspired by the latest picks from Regine at we make money not art, I’ve decided it’s time for a roundup:
Musical Gloves: Perhaps the most ubiquitous form of wearable sonic accessory, musical gloves hit their peak as Max artists in the early 90s appropriated the VR gaming toy, the Mattel Power Glove. Richard Boulanger was responsible for a lot of the early research, assisted by Eric Singer who went on to create a 1999 wireless MIDI glove of his own (see his project page.) The tradition of experimenting with toys continues now, as musicians use the P5 data glove and other gaming products. (see CDM story and how-to) All of these involve solo sonic pleasure (sorry) — for hooking up with another musician’s glove, WWMNA has info on the Haptic Gloves by Kaho Abe and Jung Sin, which make music when you link hands together.
Responsive Clothes and the Denim Synth Jacket: Researcher Joanna Berzowska is behind a variety of “reactive fashion” projects, many of them involving sound — follow her, and you’ll find a lot of the hot wearable stuff. She’s the founder, for instance, of International Fashion Machines, dedicated to interactive textiles and wearables, co-founded by another major pioneer, MIT vet Maggie Orth. A team led by Orth has developed “squeezable instruments” (think embroidered musical pillows) and a
musical jacket complete with a built-in MIDI synth and speakers — the keys are embroidered into the Levi’s denim. (see research paper, as sent by a reader in comments) Berzowska-founded XS Labs has still more projects, like the soundSleevs which include contacts that produce sound as you flex your arms and body. (source code available)
Noise Shirt and Sonic Dress: WWMNA this week also has the scoop on a t-shirt that measures ambient noise levels and displays them on a live LED. Great for workplace safety, sure, but you know you want to wear this to Crobar. Dig the charging hanger. Also at WWMNA is sonic fabric; woven-in, pre-recorded audio tape can be played by running a tape head on it. (That basic technique was long ago used by artists like Nam-Jun Paik.) Upshot is, you get a sonic suit / sonic dress you can play!
Wearables and Progressive Celtic Music: Academics aside, the real action comes from musicians. CDM reader Kevin of prog-Celtic band The Nettles (what, you’ve never heard prog-Celtic?) tells us he’s got some wearables of his own: “musical pants” via drum sensors and sticks, and possibly even something in his shoes. (Kevin: I don’t want to give too much away, mate!) DIY drum triggers are one of the easiest ways of adding sensing; Kevin points us to a great resource I’ve been digging through called EDrum for Free. And in my favorite advice received from a reader, Kevin told me “don’t feel shy about sticks.” (I was wary of beating my legs with them, but he says it’s all good . . .)
Sensor shoes: From a reader comes the Sensor Shoes, designed by Joe Paradiso, MIT Media Lab, which collect a surprising amount of data regarding pressure and position and transmit them to a computer. Dancing feet, I’ve got these dancing feet . . .
Wearables Yahoo group: Regine sends us a link to a ‘wearables’ group called 21f — lots of subscribers, but also lots of lurkers. (So get on there and post!)
Send your projects and favorites: I’m out of breath. So, did I miss any? I’d love to put together a comprehensive list of some of the coolest projects. I’m sure some of you readers (ITP students, you know who you are) have come up with things, too. Drop me a line.