Interactive artists and musicians have long experimented with sensor-packed gloves for controlling music, sound, and video. There’s Laetitia Sonami, who controls Max/MSP with her Lady’s Glove, and many other projects like the Hypersense Complex flex sensor glove-cum-gestural software as seen here this summer. Laetitia’s glove is elegantly sculptural, as seen below, and with years of practice performing with it, she’s built a whole performance practice around the glove as an instrument.

Eric Singer deserves special credit in this category. (See link for projects and videos.) In the early 90s, he hacked the Mattel PowerGlove, a controller for the Nintendo NES, for music. He followed that in 1999 with a Wireless MIDI Glove (right), which sends pressure and bend data for each fingertip.

So, what’s next?

Music thing gets the scoop on the latest iteration of the “gloves for music” trend, with a wireless model developed by 24 year-old Computer-Engineering grad Shaduz of Bologna, Italy:

3DID (3D Interaction Device) Project Page (Basic specs, photo, video)

You can tell the 3DID is a 2005 project: it’s got all the sexy modern specs you could want. Wireless is available via Bluetooth, with wired USB, serial, and Ethernet options. Data is transmitted as “oldskool MIDI,” yes, but also via OpenSoundControl (OSC), and there’s a TCP/IP driver, as well. Unlike Eric’s wireless glove, Shaduz doesn’t just rely on bend data: he adds 3 gyroscopes and 3 accelerometers, so the position of your hand can be expressive, as well. (That’s similar in conception, in fact, to the 3D controller Nintendo is working on for its upcoming Revolution console.) It’s all very cool, but I can’t help but wonder if it’s a little too complicated: sometimes focusing on fewer controls (as with Eric’s wireless glove) can be more expressive. But the really good news here is that all these features are possible with low power consumption, low weight, and EUR150 in parts.

Of course, the next step is taking time to learn the controller as an instrument. Imagine you’ve just invented the piano: you’d better take another few years and actually learn to play it.

If you want a wireless glove without doing all this work (albeit a simpler one), check out the very inexpensive P5 data glove: see CDM’s brief how-to, free Windows software. (The glove itself can be used on the Mac, too, with a little effort.)

Will interactive gloves ever make an impact as an expressive control for computers? The technology is here; my guess is it now depends on whether artful musicians can make that technology expressive, not the other way around.

  • aplumb

    Note that the use of datagloves for performance goes waaaay back to it's origins. See Jaron Lanier's work in the '80s and '90s as a starting point:

  • admin

    Jaron's work is great, too. As I was writing this, I was thinking it'd be nice to do a survey of the various contributions in this category. (And if I get really crazy, other major interactive instruments . . .) I think it'd be utterly insane to try to track everything, but I'd personally love to have a basic list.

    On that note, any other candidates? (comment or email me, either is fine . . .)

    I notice a lot of people are underwhelmed with the specific performance here (see gripes on Music thing), which is fair . . . it seems to me that you really need a lot of time and practice to get any depth on any instrument — if not, it's probably not much fun to play, anyway.


  • shaduz

    I absolutely agree with you Peter, it's not easy to "learn" a new instrument, especially when its features are still under development.
    I don't blame those musicThing readers who are underwhelmed with what they saw, but the live performance shown in the video was conceived, above all, to test the behaviour of inertial sensors, the sensor fusion and filtering algorithms, and the stability of our drivers in a real environment (wich is "slightly" different from a laboratory). Obviously, due to the number of the MIDI controls used during the performance, a secondary MIDI controller (a BCR2000) has been used, since the glove only provides, in this configuration, 5 NoteON/NoteOFF events (triggered by finger flexion) and two CC events (generated from roll and pitch angles).

    The full project we're working on is a more complex full-wireless sensor network (not only music-related), with low-power general purpose, configurable and customizable wireless nodes able to sample sensor data from various sources at the same time (either analog or SPI interfaced digital sensors), so the glove is only one of the possible use of our software/hardware framework, even though, for example, it does not show that multiple nodes can be used simultaneously (body area networks…).
    In the next months we're going to release (for free download) a java-based software environment (SeNIE) with multi-protocol support aimed at fast prototyping and deployment of complex heterogeneous wireless sensor network environments. We'll keep you updated ;)

    Vincenzo Pacella (Shaduz)
    Michele Sama (-RAX-)

  • shaduz

    it's not .com but .net sorry… here's the right link:

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