Music Artist Imogen Heap with the data gloves

Musical gloves point the way to creative collaborations

Following the high-profile showcasing of a new gestural interface for creating electronic music, Dr Tom Mitchell of the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) is set for a further round of fertile collaborations.

Manipulating music through hand gestures

Supported by a UWE Bristol Early Career Researcher Award, Dr Mitchell developed the gesture system in the University's Department of Computer Science and Creative Technologies. It enables a performer to create and manipulate electronic music through hand gestures by wearing a pair of self-contained "data gloves" fitted with sensors. He worked with internationally-acclaimed musician Imogen Heap, who first demonstrated the system in front of a live audience at the TEDGlobal2011 conference in Edinburgh, and at a further round of events subsequently. She has even written a song especially for the gloves, called Me, The Machine.

Collaborative projects

Following the demonstration, which attracted widespread media coverage, Dr Mitchell has gone on to present the technical details at an international conference in Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA. He has established an interdisciplinary network of key UK researchers in the field including productive collaborations with colleagues at the University Bristol, Bath Spa University and Queen Mary, University of London amongst others.

Dr Mitchell has also continued to form exciting artistic collaborations and is now working with the artist Tine Bech from the Digital Cultures Research Centre at UWE Bristol, to develop a playful interactive sound installation called "Tracking You". This was developed at the Pervasive Media Studio in Bristol and premiered at the V&A's Digital Design Weekend.

He is also involved in an exciting interactive project called "Danceroom Spectroscopy", exploring his interest in engaging the public right at the junction between science and art. The project has led to performances and installations at the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad, the Barbican Arts Centre, and the Bristol Harbour Festival. Another collaborative project is in the offing that will augment books in a library with motion capture technology, producing a mixed-reality experience that will invite members of the public to uncover the hidden lives of books.

Early Career award from UWE Bristol

"None of these would have been possible for me without the Early Career award from UWE Bristol." says Dr Mitchell.

"The grant provided an invaluable opportunity for me to develop and progress my research ideas, interests and profile,” he continues. “I am very pleased with the outcomes of this work so far. I have gained many skills from this opportunity, including a better understanding of the mechanisms and culture of post-doctoral research, how to link ideas across the arts and sciences, spot opportunities and manage relationships with a diverse range of collaborators."

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