London: Scientists have designed a pair of musical gloves that can sing a duet with you, but you have to wave your hand to let your unusual partner croon.
The gloves manipulate computerised sound to mimic the human voice.
Hand gestures replicate the movements of real vocal chords, allowing the gloves to produce a complex range of sounds, said Sidney Fels, a researcher at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, who led their development.
One problem is that, Fels says, it takes about 100 hours to learn how to play them.
“It’s very hard, it’s like trying to do your email while talking on the phone,” New Scientist quoted Fels as saying.
The working process is explained as: The right-hand glove contains motion sensors that detect the opening and closing of the wearer’s hand.
An open hand mimics the opening of the vocal tract, producing vowels, while a closed hand constricts the vocal tract to produce consonant sounds such as “sh” and “zz”.
Buttons on the left-hand glove activate stop consonants like “p” and “b”, normally produced by a sudden release of built-up pressure, which is difficult to simulate using the right-hand vocal tract controls.
A set of 3D position sensors on the right-hand glove locates the wearer’s hand in space, with different areas affecting pitch. A foot pedal controls volume.
The gloves were originally designed as a voice synthesiser to help people who have speech difficulties, but Fels and colleagues have now added the ability to sing.
“It’s quite an interesting idea, you’re effectively singing twice,” stated Tom Mitchell, a lecturer in music systems at the University of the West of England in Bristol, who has previously developed his own musical gloves for mixing sounds on the fly.
He suggests the system could also be used as a more general synthesiser, allowing performers to produce an even wider range of sounds.
The gloves were demonstrated at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Vancouver.