You often hear about open-source software but open-source hardware is harder (excuse the unintended pun) to come by, especially if it’s as highly original and promising as The Imaginary Marching Band, a series of wearable, played-by-pantomime instruments.
The instruments are the result of an ongoing project by Scott Peterman, an artist and inventor based out of New York. There are six instruments total, enough to make up a satisfactory-sounding band: Trumpet, trombone, tuba, snare, drum, bass drum and cymbals. They look like cool android-y gloves but the best bit about them is how they’re played: You have to slide on the glove and mimic all the movements a musician would perform in order to play the real instrument the glove corresponds to. The pictures below show the cymbal-gloves and the trumpet-glove being played.
The technical side of things can’t be as easily summarized, but the gist is that the imaginary instruments “reproduce a full range of notes using MIDI data output from the gloves via USB”. The MIDI comes from an application that decodes the signals emitted by an Arduino platform. Scott decided to opt for an Arduino Uno (even though it’s not the standard choice for wearable devices) because it has built-in USB and prototype-friendly header pins, and it’s affordable. Each instrument also has specific parts that pertain to the way it is particularly played. The trompet, trombone and tuba, for example, have pressure sensors with plastic tubing attached to them that act as mouthpieces.
Scott’s main motivation to get The Imaginary Marching Band going was to propose a more organic, fun way of using the technology available to us today and integrate it more humanely with the non-digital world. The fact that the venture is open-source makes it a perfect springboard for experimentation and gathering point for jointed efforts that are bound to produce interesting results.
Moreover, it was recently a featured project at Kickstarter.com, where it aimed to raise funding money to create copies of the original gloves and pursue long-term goals, such as developing “wireless controls which allow the gloves to sync with speakers and mobile devices without bulky cables”. The suggested budget was successfully collected, and this new finantial burst of encouragement likely means Scott’s brainchild will continue wow-ing us for a good while.