The body as melody

Home Technologist 02 The body as melody

Tyler Freeman’s DrumPants transform legs into instruments, letting people make music wherever they go.

Tyler Freeman

WEARABLE MAKERS

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British programmer Will Powell has designed a prototype for glasses that display real-time translations using two Raspberry Pis connected to Microsoft’s online translator.

Tacit: touching the invisible

California’s Steve Hoefer has invented a haptic glove for blind people that measures the distance between its wearer and objects, translating it into pressure on the wrist. An Arduino connected to ultrasound sensors detects obstacles up to 3.5 metres away and activates two servomotors in response.

Who hasn’t found themselves at some point among a group of friends, singing and making music with whatever was at hand, even your own body? That’s what happened to California’s Tyler Freeman, a 30-year old computer scientist.

“I’m a musician, like most of my friends. We were in the living room, making music by drumming on our jeans,” he says. That was when he had the brilliant idea of creating a device that would produce a real sound when tapped. It was 2006.

Eight years later, DrumPants became a reality. After a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign that raised $74,000, the first deliveries took place in August 2014. The basic version sells for $99.

This wearable technology consists of flexible sensor-studded strips that can be worn both under and over clothing, and inside shoes. It attaches with either Velcro or straps. Added to these are a micro-USB key, an audio output and a Bluetooth-connected control box carried in a pocket. Legs can become cymbals, knees a snare drum and feet a bass drum. The combinations are end­less; the device comes with more than 100 pre-recorded virtual instruments. DrumPants can also be used to control such other applications as video games and websites.

The first prototypes were built using an Arduino board. The DrumPants team designed the newest version, which includes a smaller custom-designed chip, but the application can still be used in projects that incorporate other Arduino boards.

Freeman is already thinking ahead. “We’d like to develop a whole platform for wearable technology. Drum­Pants are our first product, but we’d like to create others, letting people control all their devices from their body.”

A whole community of adult “makers”, like Tyler Freeman, Adam HartmannElco Jacobs and Alex Klein, are unleashing their creativity thanks to Raspberry Pi and Arduino boards.

– By Benjamin Keller. With Thomas Pfefferlé and Sara Bandelier

Technologist 02.009

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