Don’t Play the Instrument, Be the Instrument


Lauren Thomason, Reporter

In the world of music everything seems to be electronic. Mixers and laptops are being seen on stages more frequently, and although this may make the music sound good, it is not exactly aesthetically pleasing. What needs to be created is a way for music to be both pleasing to the eyes and to the ears.

Imogen Heap, a singer from the UK, is trying to bridge the gap between these two things with her invention of Mi.Mu (me-moo) gloves. Mi.Mu gloves can manipulate music on stage without the need for instruments to actually be there. With the gloves, the artist can move with the music and use various hand gestures in order to increase or decrease volume, pitch and more based upon the artist’s personal settings.

Heap presented her innovative idea for Mi.Mu gloves at the Full Wired Talk in 2012. She said the idea came from when she visited the MIT media lab and saw Elena Jessop, Ph.D., wear a glove and capture a note she was singing and then manipulate that note with simple movements of her hand and/or wrist. Heap then took this idea even further when she started developing her gloves.

The gloves, in conjunction with an Xbox Kinect, enable the artist, to move to different areas of the stage and have different instruments or sound settings available based on the area that she is in. During her Full Wired presentation, when Heap moved to the corners of the stage she would enter a “choir of me’s” as she called it, making her voice sound like she was singing with twenty other hers. She could also then move to a different area and play the drums by pounding her fists in the air.

She said during the presentation that she can play up to three different instruments at once with the gloves. She was able to demo the product by performing her hit song “Me the Machine” using the Mi.Mu gloves. She had even written and composed the song entirely using the gloves as her inspiration.

Since her original introduction of the product there have been many more prototypes made and many more functions made available. For example, now all the controls for the gloves are on a motherboard directly connected to the gloves themselves rather than attached separately to the artist using long wires. This motherboard panel connects wirelessly with a computer that has all the set controls for the gloves, therefore enabling the artist to play the instruments they want, perform the actions they want to perform and create music directly on stage. Heap’s purpose for this was so that rather than using a basic mixing board, which is not very engaging for the artist or the audience, the artist would be able to move with the music and present a more thrilling performance.

Although the idea was formed and presented by 2012, according to the official website, the Mi.Mu company was not yet formed until 2013. And, actually, the Mi.Mu company does not stop at music. Mi.Mu has a plan to advance many other gesture-related things such as sign language. So far they have brought about this possibility by programming a set of Mi.Mu gloves to play the song YMCA as the person wearing the gloves is signing those four letters. Imagine how, if this can be refined, that would open a world of possibilities for those who are mute and unable to speak to those that are hearing. This would truly break barriers.

Also, not only is this invention very much real, but it is also predicted to be very affordable as well once it is out of the prototype stage, according to the company. This is because the company is going to make all of the technology and makings of Mi.Mu gloves completely accessible to the public in hopes that those who want them will find a way to make them for themselves.

The Mi.Mu gloves are truly reshaping the world of music and, as she noted in her interview with CNN, Heap hopes that in the future, Mi.Mu gloves will be looked back upon as the electric guitar once was in the way that it made way for a new genre. The integration of these gloves into popular music may be just around the corner. Ariana Grande has been playing with them recently in her “Honeymoon Diaries” series on YouTube. Perhaps she is thinking of using them at some point on The Honeymoon Tour. Additionally, if the sign language possibility is further looked into Heap may not only be reshaping music, but also communication itself.