If Hands Could Sing

If Hands Could Sing

School of Music | Faculty of Arts
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While many people talk with their hands, so to speak, a team of UBC professors has now made it possible to talk—or rather, sing—through a pair of gloves.

Developed by a team led by Sidney Fels, in the department of electrical and computer engineering and Robert Pritchard, a researcher at the UBC Institute for Computing, Information and Cognitive Systems (ICICS) and the UBC Media and Graphics Interdisciplinary Centre (MAGIC), the technology, called a digital ventriloquist actor (DIVA), produces a singing voice when manually activated by a hand moving within electrically wired gloves. The motion-sensing gloves create a frequency based on their position; the right hand controls vowels (an open hand), and consonants (a closed hand), while the height of the hand determines the pitch. Meanwhile, the left hand controls stop consonants like Bs and Ds.

“From a compositional perspective, what I’m interested in is expanding the tools available to provide an emotional experience in the concert hall,” says Pritchard, in an interview with Gizmodo. “We’re able to give one person two voices. So they can do a duet with themselves.”

Future uses for the device could involve giving people with speech impairments the ability to speak without sign language or an interpreter.


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Sidney Fels (left) and Bob Pritchard (center) testing the DIVA Harness Credit: Johnty Wang

“We’re able to give one person two voices. So they can do a duet with themselves.” – Robert Pritchard, UBC Institute for Computing, Information and Cognitive Systems (ICICS) and UBC Media and Graphics Interdisciplinary Centre

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