Air guitar T-shirt rocks imaginary beat

Scientists have created a T-shirt that adds a sound track when wearers strum their air guitar.

Leslie Katz Former Culture Editor
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Leslie Katz

Cue the Deep Purple. Air guitar, that time-honored musical tradition generally best left for performances in garages and basements, has just gotten a big boost from technology.

Scientists at Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation have created a T-shirt that adds a real-life sound track when wearers strum their imaginary instrument.

Playing air guitar

Textile motion sensors embedded in the shirt sleeves detect motion when one arm bends and the other fake-strums. They then send the information to a computer that interprets the data and plays it as a series of guitar riffs.

Fortunately, the contraption is wireless, so there are are no trailing cables to trip over while you jump around headbanging to Van Halen.

"It's an easy-to-use, virtual instrument that allows real-time music making, even by players without significant musical or computing skills," said CSIRO researcher Richard Helmer (pictured). "It allows you to jump around and the sound generated is just like an original MP3."

By customizing the software, Helmer and his team have also tailored the technology to make an air tambourine and an air percussion instrument.

Also in the works--a sensor-equipped tuxedo that adds real-life Beethoven or Handel compositions to air symphony conducting. Not really, but you never know.