Scientists at Australia’s research agency, CSIRO, have created a t-shirt that could be the future of music – or just another way for music geeks to look silly.
Engineer Dr Richard Helmer and a team of researchers at CSIRO Textiles and Fibre Technology have created a wearable instrument shirt (WIS) that lets users play air guitar simply by moving one arm to pick chords and the other to strum the imaginary instrument’s strings.
Here, Dr Helmer demonstrates how to use a WIS to “play” guitar:
“Freedom of movement is a great feature of these textile-based interfaces,” Dr Helmer says.
“Our air guitar consists of a wearable sensor interface embedded in a conventional ’shirt’ which uses custom software to map gestures with audio samples. It’s an easy-to-use, virtual instrument that allows real-time music making – even by players without significant musical or computing skills. It allows you to jump around and the sound generated is just like an original mp3.”
The WIS works by recognising and interpreting arm movements and relaying this wirelessly to a computer for audio generation. There are no trailing cables to get in the way or trip over. Textile motion sensors embedded in the shirt sleeves detect motion when the arm bends – in most cases the left arm chooses a note and the right arm plays it.
By customising the software, the team has also tailored the technology to make an air tambourine and an air guiro (percussion instrument).
Dr Helmer says the development of the WIS required intensive collaboration by researchers with high-level skills in computing, chemistry, electronics, music composition and textile manufacture.
“The tchnology – which is adaptable to almost any kind of apparel – takes clothing beyond its traditional role of protection and fashion into the realms of entertainment and a wide range of other applications including the development of clothes which will be able to monitor physiological changes,” he says.