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Gadgets

Imogen Heap makes music with gadget-packed gloves on TED stage

Michael Jackson's glittery glove may be the most famous mitten in music, but it's not the most high-tech: that honour goes to the gadget-packed gloves worn by dulcet-toned diva Imogen Heap.

Michael Jackson's glittery glove may be the most famous mitten in music, but it's not the most high-tech: that honour goes to the gadget-packed gloves worn by dulcet-toned diva Imogen Heap.

Heap showed off the music-controlling gloves onstage at the TEDGlobal conference, a smorgasbord of talks and performances from shockingly clever people taking place this week in Edinburgh.

Heap is best known for songs including First Train Home, Goodnight And Go, and the wibbly-wobbly elec-apella weirdness of Hide and Seek. She had previously experimented with wireless lapel microphones on her wrists, but wanted to actually control her music with her hands.

A team from the University of West England, led by Professor Tom Mitchell, took some fibre-optic gloves designed for gaming and covered them with accelerometers and magnetometers to detect movement, and chips to interpret hand and arm movements. Those movements are turned into music, wirelessly transmitted to give the performer complete freedom on stage.

Movements include spreading your arms wider to make the sound louder, or bringing them back together to break things down.

The team are planning to train the gloves to recognise where the wearer is standing, creating different types of sound depending on your location.We'd pay good money for a Kinect game that does all that.

TEDGlobal 2011 asks what is life? And how can it be better lived? The line-up includes talks from a diverse cast of authors, activists, theorists, entrepreneurs, singers, journalists, economists, scientists, techno-illusionists and rational optimists. They include philosopher Alain de Botton, actor Thandie Newton, comedian Robin Ince, sexy historian Niall Ferguson, debunker of bad science Ben Goldacre, author Malcolm Gladwell, singer Eddi Reader and jet-packing rocket man Yves Rossy.

Heap is a longstanding user of Twitter and social media, and is even working on a crowdsourced album created from more than 900 'sound seeds', or samples of everyday noises sent in by fans. Each song is planned to take three months. The first song, initially known as #heapsong1 and later retitled Lifeline, was released in March.