Imogen Heap’s Music Glove Now Being Developed As Kickstarter Project


Developers of Imogen Heap‘s music glove controllers have announced a Kickstarter project to turn them into a production controller – the Mi.Mu. Glove For Music.

Here’s what they have to say about the Mi.Mu.:

The gloves are the product of years of research and development, building upon original research at University of the West of England. The project was initiated and continues to be driven by musician Imogen Heap along with a team of engineers, scientists, artists and musicians.

A number of iterations of the gloves have been designed, aimed predominantly at producing a gestural performance system for Heap.This culminated in a performance system which can be seen in footage from some of Imogen’s demos and performances.

While the system was incredibly powerful and expressive, it was also incredibly complex to set up. It required the attention of a team of people, not to mention the days of intense advanced MIDI routing and Ableton Live programming to create the mappings and session used in Imogen’s first glove song, Me The Machine, which is included with many of our Kickstarter pledges.

We wanted everyone to have the experience of being inside these gloves without as much of the complexity in Imogen’s original system. We wanted to make a wireless glove that almost any musician could adapt to their way of making music. The last 18 months have seen re-design after re-design of the glove textiles, hardware and software and we have finally arrived at a point where we can make them available to others through this Kickstarter.

Here’s the official video intro:

The gloves capture the movements and postures of your hands. The software allows this information to be mapped to musical control messages which can then be routed to your favorite music software.

Specifically, the gloves track the following:

  • The orientation of your hand
  • The ‘flex’ of your fingers
  • Your current hand posture (e.g. fist, open hand, one finger point)
  • The direction (up, down, left, right, forwards, backwards) of your hand
  • Sharp movements such as drum hits
  • This information is transmitted wirelessly to your computer, over WiFi (via the x-OSC board on the wrist).

Here’s Imogen Heap demonstrating her early version of the gloves:

Here’s a performance by Heap with prototypes of the gloves:

The Mi.Mu. Gloves are being offered via the Kickstarter project with several options, including a DIY options and fully assembled. See the project site for details.

19 thoughts on “Imogen Heap’s Music Glove Now Being Developed As Kickstarter Project

  1. I’d really like to like this, as a musician, as an academic, and if only for the “cool” factor. A fellow student in one of my last graduate seminars in library school was trying to do this very same idea — in 1993, mind you — but that was before Kickstarter. I wonder how far she got with it …

    But the real problem I see here is her Kickstarter campaign. In brief? It’s all wrong … 43 days to go and only £8657 of the £200,000 they’re hoping to get. That’s bad enough, but when you look at the breakdown of the contributions, it gets much worse.

    At that time of this post:

    A £1 minimum pledge … if we look at the bottom tier of £5 or more, there are 14 backers … they get a download of the first song

    At the next rung, £10 or more … 10 backers … they get a song and a chance to buy the glove when they make enough after the “angels“ have received theirs (see what THEY get, below) …

    24 pledges so far … mind you, no limits on these.

    £30 level. limit of 300 slots … ah, here it gets interesting. A limit of 300, and there are 24 pledges. Yeah, they get a CD of the first glove song. Not a mere download, but physical media …

    48 pledges …

    £50, no limits … they get a stream of the first song and a chance to remix and upload their efforts … 7 people have stepped up for this one …

    That’s 55 people so far and still no one actually gets a glove … but hold on …

    £420, limited to 50 slots. Zero. Zip. Nada. NO ONE at this level. But what would they get? Well, that’s a good question. They don’t get a glove. They don’t get a kit for a glove. They get the textile part of the glove, “some customised bend sensors, and an I/O board“ to quote from the page. There are still some significant bits you’ll have to buy on your own and you’ll have to assemble and trouble shoot it yourself. It doesn’t say if you get a copy of the first song …

    £1200, limit of 50 slots … finally … you get ONE glove. You DO get to choose a left or right hand … and you can download the free software (but it was free anyway, right?) to make it work. ONE BACKER so far …

    That’s 56 people so far …for one glove

    £2400 level, limit of 25. What do you get? A pair of gloves … ZERO pleges

    £4950 or more … LIMIT of 10 … you get a prototype PAIR of gloves as soon as they’re available and the chance to work with the team in making the production model ready. Yours will get upgraded to the production level when it’s finished. And they’ll throw in a copy of Spectrasonics Omnisphere with custom patches already configured. ONE PLEDGE …

    57 people, and only three gloves committed.

    What does this say? Is this a reflection of the willingness of people who are creating music and interested in new tools with which to do so are not willing or able to commit a minimum of over $2000 US for one? Is it a failure on the lab’s part to promote this appropriately or Imogen Heap to get the word out about it to the “perfect” audience to get support?

    I dunno … I’d like to see it succeed, but I wonder how much fatigue has set in among us that we just see it as yet another clever product that may be overpriced or have overestimated the interest out there.

    Like I said back at the beginning, I saw the start of this back in 1994, as a class demo … 20 years later and it STILL hasn’t scaled down to be readily affordable to get it into the hands of those who would take it to the next level of performance …

  2. No need to make a glove, you could do 90% of that with the gyro in the iphone….with the apple watch right around the corner now is probably not the time to create some kind of proprietary wearable music device…

  3. 1. Way too expensive.
    2. Has a limited market,
    3. Is software controlled, so I doubt drivers, etc will be maintained as time goes on.
    4. Can do a lot of this using Leap Motion, albeit in front of a laptop.
    5. Did I mention way too expensive

    Sorry Imogen. If you want to get this out there in the hands (no pun intended) of musicians, why not publish the blueprints in Make Magazine and Open Source the software.

    1. The concept of a control glove could be considered “low hanging fruit” concept-wise– just like tap-dance-floor MIDI controller, or a controller that tracks the movement of your eyes. It looks/sounds like Fischman got a very effective prototype going! I hope Heap & the Mi-Mu people reach out to him!!

      1. His uses the P5 VR glove which is available for like £30 on eBay, which is a major plus! He’s created a library of externals for max/MSP as well as the MAES patch (which is what he’s using in that video). I have it running at home as well, and it’s fantastic to use.

  4. Pretty sure I have a Nintendo version of this in a box somewhere. “Power Glove, it’s so bad.”

    All joking aside, does seem like a cool device. Though there is nothing pulling me towards it at those price tags. Not even close.

    1. Probably not. However expressive people claim these systems are, they still rely on a set of rules regarding what processes are implemented and which gestures control them.

  5. It is quite rare when a skillful songwriter and gifted composer like Heap, embraces cutting edge technology AND is a chart topper with a huge following. It is exceedingly rare that this same artist is also breaking new ground.

    This is expensive and complex technology, requiring significant development time (years), stupendous effort, and lots of trial & error. It isn’t reasonable to expect them to just give that away for nothing– unless they all just happened to be super-wealthy. Crowd-funding the project is a good idea because it will ultimately attract the support of interested folks and it can eliminate some of the risk of investing all the dough in advance, not knowing whether it will take off.

    Of course we can point to other attempts at “a glove”, and what we can do with LEAP Motion, et al. But clearly, if that technology was providing the functionality they were seeking, we would have seen someone doing it by now. The Leap Motion is a good thing, but the limits are obvious to anyone who has used it.

    I think one thing that makes this exciting is that it has the potential to evolve into THE-MUSICAL-INSTRUMENT of the SOCIAL AGE– which will be unique to each person who uses it. A “student” of the MISA (ok, I just made that up) designs their own gestures, sounds and parameters, and develops their discipline based on their individual creative impulses.

    In the future, I think this motion tracking might be largely accomplished with something like a Kinect 2.0 (or X.0), but I still think there will be a place for some kind of gloves, breath control (with bite pressure, and nostril mounted secondary sensors) and pressure sensors for the feet (as that would also be a pretty good control source). But even though the sound suits of the future will be far more full features, they will lack the snazzy steampunk of Imogen’s garb.

    I say full steam ahead!!!

  6. I’d definitely have to see it function and use it vs. any other option on the market (fischmann, leap, and iPhones were mentioned above). I will say that there is something special about a well made instrument, and I do feel that while a lot of electronic musicians are fine with most of their gear coming in below the 600$ price point, those of us with Nords, Moogs, or whatever who paid 2-5k for a great instrument do appreciate the difference. Not only that, but guitarists and drummers regularly spend multiple thousands of dollars on their instruments… I think the important part is in their use. How easy to get going? How versatile? Proprietary software? Expandable? Durable? And at the end of the day this product is aiming at fluidity and expression… if there are cheaper products that do not grant the same degree of precision or whatever, then it could in fact be that this is a premium version of what one can get elsewhere, that is just that much better. It will be difficult to get it past people who see MPC, groove box, and keyboard style controllers as the only viable choices… much like so many gamers hated the wii because it wasn’t a standard controller based system… it should be noted that the wii sold tons, it is nearly outdated, the tech isn’t successful in its current generation… but it inspired other devices which live on… I hope we’ll see people do cool things with items like this… hell, Bjork did cool things with a reactable… just because it’s novel… whatever, an entirely different type of musician uses an item like this…

  7. I was shocked by the price. It seems we would be funding Ms. Heap. but in no way developing the glove for us all. seems rather arrogant, or just very out of touch.

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