- Engineering students at Cornell University, New York, made the gloves that use a magnetic tracking system and can create virtually any sound
- The Aura enables wearers to make music using expressive and intuitive hand gestures so that music lessons are not required
- Raising and lowering the hands controls pitch and spreading them apart increases volume, while other effects can be achieved by twisting hands
13:40 EST, 21 February 2014
13:40 EST, 21 February 2014
It can take years to master the violin or get to grips with the piano.
But an electrical musical instrument in the form of gloves allows a wearer to make music using expressive and intuitive hand gestures.
The Aura relies on sensors, a magnetic field and software to make futuristic noises, but to the untrained eye it looks a bit like magic.
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HOW DOES AURA WORK?
The gloves use a magnetic tracking system.
They have small magnetic sensors attached to the fingers.
Wearers wave their gloved hands over a magnetic ‘base’ which emits magnetic fields that the sensors on the gloves pick up.
The gloves themselves do not make sound. They are essentially a midi device and simply send out data and different parameters that are interpreted by special computer software.
Virtually any noise can be created.
Wears control the noises created by spreading their hands apart to increase volume and raising and lowering them to control pitch accordingly.
By closing the fingers, the Aura wearer activates flex sensors and muffles the sound, while twisting the hands adds distortion that makes the noises sound extra futuristic.
‘The goal was to create the most
intuitive instrument,’ said Ray Li, an engineering student at Cornell
University, Ithaca, New York, who came up with the idea of an instrument
played by gesturing in the air. Computer scientist Michael Ndubuisi
helped him bring it to life.
The gloves are fitted with sensors that report their position and the orientation of the wearer’s hands in a magnetic field.
Raising and lowering gloved hands controls pitch and spreading them apart increases volume.
By closing the fingers, the Aura wearer activates flex sensors and muffles the sound, while twisting the hands adds distortion that makes the noises produced sound extra futuristic.
Through an interface created by Mr Ndubuisi, hand positions are converted to signals in the universal Midi language for electronic instruments and fed to a synthesiser.
The result looks something like a person listening to music and pretending to conduct, but the ‘conductor’ makes music by waving his hands in thin air.
‘We’re trying to capture those intuitive gestures and make music,’ Mr Li explained.
The duo used magnetic sensors in the gloves that were originally developed for medical applications, motion tracking and manipulating 3D graphics.
Before creating the Aura, Mr Li developed an electronic instrument that looked a bit like a cello, in which conductive strips replaced strings and a joystick held in the right hand controlled the sound.
Mr Li (pictured) controls the noises created by spreading his hands apart to increase volume and raising and lowering them to control pitch accordingly.
By closing the fingers, the Aura wearer activates flex sensors and muffles the sound, while twisting the hands adds distortion that makes the noises sound extra futuristic
He wanted to allow musicians to make noises in a more expressive way and came up with the idea of making Aura solely controlled by a person’s hands in thin air.
The duo are building on the idea so that a person will be able to control recorded sounds of different instruments, provide visual representations and add percussion using body movements – all at once.
‘The musician will create a whole song on stage with nothing,’ Mr Li said.
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