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Imogen Heap controls music with 'magic gloves'

The gloves function as both live instruments and DJ. The singer debuted the technology at a TED conference in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Heap debuted gloves that take the place of live musicians and a DJ, all while maintaining a certain aura of steampunk.
University of the West of England

Grammy Award winner Imogen Heap has a firm grasp on her music. In fact, she's able to perform it with little more than her own hands and one awesome set of gloves.

At a TEDGlobal 2011 event in Edinburgh, Scotland, Heap debuted the "magical musical gloves," which allow her to control music through gestures, in a four-minute performance. The system is connected wirelessly to a laptop that does the actual audio processing.

"The gloves comprise a high-tech musical instrument that enables artists to manipulate multilayered recordings of vocals, acoustic, and virtual instruments live on-stage," says Tom Mitchell of the University of the West of England, who developed the gloves with Heap in mind. "It takes improvisation to a new level and frees the artist from interactions with electronic equipment on-stage."

The gestures that power the gloves are largely intuitive, like recording any sound that Heap points at, or "catching" the sound of her voice or an instrument. The caught sounds can be filtered by clasping her hands together and then be "released" by opening her hands. Heap says she plans to incorporate the gloves into her live shows.

"She can build layers of music, point and play invisible synthesizers and drums. The creative possibilities are huge and it's really engaging to watch," Mitchell, a music engineering expert, said in a statement. Mitchell and Heap have collaborated for a number of years on new ways of making music using cutting-edge technology.

As for what's next, Heap herself says the gloves are just the beginning. Earlier this week in response to a fan's suggestion that she try out this musical suit next, she tweeted: "Exactly...Musical suit next and more up our sleeves!"